TEMPLE, N.H.—It’s been slow going.
That’s the word from sugarmakers around New England who are just starting to fire up this week after a long winter with no thaws and not much sap.
‘It’s been wicked slow,” said Scott Kemp who makes syrup in Rindge, N.H. and has only produced 15 gallons of syrup so far off his 800 taps.
At the tree tapping ceremony with New Hampshire Gov. Christopher Sununu at Connolly Bros. Dairy and Maple in Temple, N.H. on Friday, sugarmakers were all telling the same tale of woe.
Not much of a season so far and it’s already March 12.
“You better believe I’m worried, oh my goodness,” said Charlie Hunt who taps 3,000 in Hillsborough, N.H. “But we remain optimistic.”
Sugarmakers made some syrup this week during the first significant warm-up of the season. But it didn’t run as hard as many were hoping.
Gov. Sununu himself said he was up until 2 a.m. Friday morning boiling sap in his kitchen at his home in Newfield, N.H.
"We tap four trees in the backyard with my three kids," Sununu told The Maple News. "We'll probably get 12 or 13 gallons of sap and make a half gallon of syrup out of it."
Ben Fisk, who boils off of 30,000 taps in Temple, N.H. was only on his fourth boil of the season on Friday. And one of those boils was in January.
Last year at this time he was at half a crop.
“It’s been slow and everyone I’ve talked to have said the same thing,” Fisk told The Maple News on Friday. “Every day that goes by the season is getting shorter.”
Howard Pearl from Loudon, N.H. said he hadn’t boiled even once yet.
“We’ve been so busy in the woods fixing squirrel damage,” he said.
Meanwhile, parts of the Midwest have called it a year already.
Eric Lee of Stix2Brix sugarhouse in Anderson, Ind. said he collected his last batch of sap on Wednesday.
“It’s been very warm here,” he told The Maple News. “While our season was shorter than prior years, the sugar content is higher.”
The size of the remaining 2020 crop is almost non-existent in the U.S. and a sizable crop this year is needed to keep the market happy, bulk buyers say.
Demand at retail for syrup is at an all time high with the pandemic spurring a cooking-at-home trend and a gold rush on maple.
“There’s not a lot of syrup out there in the U.S. right now,” said Fisk, who is a major bulk syrup buyer and retail distributor of his Ben’s Maple Syrup brand.
Fisk said he was looking for all the syrup he can get this season, paying $2.10 per pound for the top table grades.
“I want as much at 1.5 million pounds,” Fisk said.
It was reported this week that the Strategic Reserve of syrup held by the Quebec Maple Producers Association was 116 million pounds.
There was no word on the quality of the syrup or the grades.
In Pennsylvania this week, sugarmakers were smiling finally.
"It's a month late getting started," said 9,000-tap producer Phillip Kuepfer of Townville, Pa. on Friday.
Kuepfer said this past week has been very good sugaring weather and he hoped to be at half a crop by the weekend.
"We should be close to 2,000 gallons," he told The Maple News.
Back in New Hampshire, a good forecast for the week ahead was also giving sugarmakers hope.
"Mother Nature is a fickle business partner," said 1,100-tap producer David Kemp of Jaffrey, N.H. "She's gonna do what she's gonna do."