•  The now empty sugarhouse restaurant at Ioka Valley Farm in Hancock, Mass. The farm was open this weekend but the governor Monday shut down all restaurants due to Coronavirus.

  •  In what seems like such an innocent time only a week ago, Vt. Gov. Phil Scott does a "maple toast" with the Gagne family on March 9 in Highgate, Vt. The state has since canceled maple open house weekend in Vermont.

Season Update #6: New York, N.H. shut down maple weekends; sugarhouse restaurants close

Maine cancels Maple Sunday, the biggest U.S. open house event


UPDATED: The Maine Maple Producers Association this afternoon canceled Maine Maple Sunday, the largest maple open house tour in the country, where some producers typically take in 50 percent of their sales for the year.

"The majority of our board agreed we need to postpone the maple event to a date to be determined later," said Scott Dunn, president of Maine's maple association.

SYRACUSE, N.Y.—New York’s two-week maple open house event has been canceled, the latest seasonal promotional event to shut down due to the Coronavirus crisis.  New Hampshire's state open house event is also closed.

“…we have a responsibility to proactively do our part to promote social distancing and limit the spread of COVID-19,” the New York State Maple Producers Association said in a statement released this morning. 

“Even though many of our farms do not see dense crowds for Maple Weekend, we know the risk of remaining open does not outweigh our responsibility to serve the public,” the association said.

The statewide event with 187 participating sugarhouses was scheduled to be open this weekend and March 28-29.

New Hampshire’s Maple Producers Associaton also Monday canceled its statewide event scheduled for this weekend.

“It is with heavy hearts that the NHMPA Board of Directors has chosen to cancel NH Maple Weekend and the remainder of NH Maple Month,” the association said in a statement today.

Maine officials were consulting today on canceling its Maine Maple Sunday event for this weekend, the biggest maple open house tour in the nation.  No official word yet.

New York and New Hampshire join Vermont, Ohio, Massachusetts, the Highland Maple Festival in Virginia, the Vermont Maple Festival and most other maple seasonal events—from pancake breakfasts to cooking demonstrations—to be canceled during the outbreak and extraordinary national response, which has come during the peak of maple season.

Some individual sugarhouses are making choices to stay open to limited customers.  Those that did stay open were not seeing much activity.

In Massachusetts, famous for its seasonal pancake houses, this past weekend saw limited business.

“We had 168 Saturday and 275 served yesterday,” said Missy Leab, who runs Ioka Valley Farms’s pancake restaurant with husband Rob in Hancock, Mass.  “But that was down 125 people each day.”

“We followed the restaurant precautions that the department of health advised and added a few other safeguards,” she said.

Leab said she eliminated “family style” seating in the restaurant and essentially “cleared the tables” of everything.

In between seatings she said glove-wearing staff wiped down the tables.

“Considering what’s going on we were very impressed with turnout,” Leab said.

Her restaurant and all others in Massachusetts will be closed indefinitely due to an executive order from Gov. Charles Baker on Monday.

Leab predicts the farm will lose 50 percent of their seasonal revenue from the shutdown, factoring in the loss of syrup sales to other restaurants and nearby schools, which are also closed.

At Cooke’s Maple Farm in Brunswick, Maine, George and Kate Cooke said the sugarhouse will be closed for tours but they will be asking their customers make online syrup orders and will be handed syrup for pick-up at the sugarhouse, one at a time.

Cooke said he plans to wear nitrate food handling gloves.

“I think that will make people feel more comfortable,” he said.

Meanwhile, groups are looking ahead to promotion events later in the spring or the fall to try and recoup losses.

Scott Dunn, president of the Maine Maple Producers said maple states should join together to come up with a common date to hold a fall event.

In New York, the fall event idea was also being floated.

“All we can say for sure is there will be a promotion at a later date when events are given the all clear,” said Helen Thomas, executive director of the New York State Maple Producers Association.