SOUTH EGREMONT, Mass.—A ten day stretch of perfect sugaring weather in February had sugarmakers scrambling to get taps in and tanks set.
And making a ton of syrup.
“We were tapped by Feb. 6 and boiling on Feb. 15,” said Paul Turner of Turner Maple Farms in Egremont, Mass.
As of March 1, Turner had made 450 gallons. The only time he had made more in February was in 2015 when he had made 500. But it shut down a few weeks after that.
Turner has approximately 4,000 taps out this season and still has about 100 to go.
He had just recently finished a big install project on a 50 acre woods he bought last year. He was still waiting for electricity to be run to the site, and was relying on a 5000 watt generator to run two pumps.
Turner also installed another 500-tap with 3/16ths tubing and it has paid off.
“The 500 on 3/16ths have done super, the lines are always running heavy,” he said.
In Vermont, production was in full gear for the last part of February.
“Oh yes, it’s running good,” said Donna Letourneau, who sugars with husband Robert Letourneau in West Charlston, Vt. in the very northern part of the state. “It’s been a good year so far.”
Maybe even another record breaker, said Matt Gordon of the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association.
“I’m hearing from a few folks who are thinking this could be one heck of a large crop,” Gordon said. “However, it’s only March 1, right? A lot can happen between now and the end of the season.”
On Saturday Feb. 25, father and son team Eric and Tyler Whippie of Sullivan, N.H. were prepping the sugarhouse and hooking up the R/O to get ready for a boil after a huge run on Friday Feb. 24.
“This will be the earliest we’ve ever started,” Whippie said.
Nick Kosko of Meadow View Sugarhouse in Unity, N.H. was also impressed by the season
“We are off to a fast start,” he said.
Both the United States and Canada had record breaking crops, back to back in 2016 and 2017 and the market is very flush with syrup, according to bulk buyers.
Many sugarmakers were caught up short by the quick turn to sugaring weather in mid-February, quickly trying to finish expansion projects that were slowed down by the brutal winter in the Northeast, where temps were below zero for a two week stretch in January.
In Connecticut, sugarmaker Winter Mead II in North Canaan, Ct. had just finished tapping last week and was buried in sap and syrup as he prepared for another boil on March 1.
He didn’t have a firm count on his production just yet on his 2,000 taps, most of which run directly to the picturesque sugarhouse tucked in the Berkshire hills.
But the rapid warm up of the past 10 days had him nervous. A patch of snowdrop flowers had already started to bloom behind the sugarhouse.
“Those shouldn’t be out for a couple more weeks,” Mead said on March 1. “They should be peeking through snow.”