WESTHAMPTON, Mass.—Sugarmakers were hoping for a reset this weekend, as temperatures are expected to drop well below zero and hopefully stalling swelling trees.
“The buds are fat in my warmer woods,” said Richard Brodmerkle, a sugarmaker in Oakham, Mass. who has been boiling since mid-January on his 1,250 taps.
“We even heard peepers already last Saturday night,” he said of the bellwether frog chirping that is typically a tell-tale sign that the season’s end is near.
While the season may be on the downhill side of the halfway point, many in Massachusetts, Vermont and across the upper regions of the Maple Belt were smiling.
“We’ve made the most syrup we’ve ever made in February,” said Worthington, Mass. sugarmaker Paul Sena, who has 14,000 taps out this year.
Sena says he has about 1/3 of his crop in so far.
Keith Bardwell, a sugarmaker in Whatley, Mass. figures he is at 2/3rds of a crop already.
“As of today, we are at one third of a gallon per tap,” he said. “We usually hit a half.”
Up in Vermont and New Hampshire it is much the same story—lots of January and February production and nervous eyes on March.
“Bet I've got 1/2 a crop in February,” said Bruce Treat, a sugarmaker in Bow, N.H.
At the Governor’s Tree Tapping ceremony in Randolph Center, Vt. on Tuesday, brothers Paul and David Lambert were all smiles with their season so far.
“Our goal was to leave February with 800 gallons and we are already there,” Paul Lambert said on Feb. 28. The family boils off of 6,210 taps.
“We’ve had the best season ever so far,” David Lambert said.
It was not the same in Ohio, where it looks like sugarmakers may be getting skunked for the second year in a row.
“The next warm spell will end the season,” said Leslie Ober of the Ohio State University Extension Service in Geauga County, the state’s major syrup region.
He said many of the big sugarmakers in Middlefield, Ohio are pulling their taps already after tasting buddy flavor in their syrup.
In other parts of the state, sugarmakers are in wait and see mode after the weekend cold snap.
Dan Brown, OMPA President in Knox County, 50 miles north of Columbus is taking it one day at a time, Ober reported.
“I have producers that have made ½ gallon of syrup per tap. I also have producers that only have made 25% of a crop and need to make more syrup,” Ober said.
“It appears that for the most part the season is over. I will try one more run after the cold spell at the end of the week. A very disappointing season for us.”