ATTICA, N.Y.—The early boilers have been filling barrels the past two weeks, getting a quick start on a 2020 season that has seen perfect sugaring weather.
“It’s being labeled as this season’s syrup but we made most of it on the last day of 2019,” joked Greg Zimpher, who is the chief boiler at Merle Maple Farms in Attica, N.Y., discussing his crop so far.
Zimpher made 280 gallons on New Year’s Eve off of the 4,500 taps the farm had out since tapping on Dec. 23.
He made another 250 gallons on Sunday, Jan. 5, bringing the season total to 530 gallons so far.
“We had the sap so we might as well make it,” Zimpher said.
In Northern New York, sugarmaker Mike Bennett of Full Throttle Maple in Ellenburg, N.Y. spent almost all of December tapping trees and filling barrels.
Bennett started tapping on Dec. 2, possibly the first in the nation.
By Dec. 15, with near perfect sugaring weather, he had made 140 gallons. On Christmas Eve, Bennett said he made another 140 gallons and on Dec. 29 he made 140 gallons yet again.
“We made 420 gallons total for 2019!” Bennett said.
He had 16,500 taps in for most of those runs and continues to tap and make syrup into the new year.
The sugarmakers are one of a group of growing number of producers in the U.S. who have jumped the season, capturing early runs and relying on continuously-running high vacuum pumps to keep tapholes free of bacteria all the way until April.
Other sugarmakers couldn’t resist experimenting in this week’s sugaring weather.
Ray Gingerich of Orwell, Ohio said he wanted to test out new vacuum equipment and tapped 16 yard maples on Dec. 27.
“Within a day and a half we had 40 gallons of 1.4 percent sap,” Gingerich said.
He said they made three quarts of syrup for his grandkids from the production.
But the weird winter weather had him concerned when he was already hearing one of the tell-tale signs of spring.
“On Dec. 30, we were hearing the peepers already,” Gingerich said. “We couldn’t believe it.”