GEORGETOWN, N.Y.—The season is shut down or close to it in much of the Maple Belt, with the northern regions bracing for another cold snap that could hurt their season totals.
“We had tremendous sap volume but we didn’t have good sugar content all year,” said Pete Walrod of Georgetown, N.Y. who had 8,000 taps out this year and was buying from another 2,000.
Walrod said he was getting 1.1 or 1.2 percent sugar most of the season and the best was 1.5.
“The ratio just wasn’t there,” he said.
That was the story for many sugarmakers, who blame a “mast year” for the low sugar, with trees putting energy into making seeds instead of converting sugars.
“It wasn't that sweet,” said Noah Yoder of Quaker City, Ohio. “It took us 70 to 80 gallons per gallon.”
Yoder was happy with the sap output on his 1000 taps, but only made 224 gallons.
“We boiled 19,000 gallons of sap down,” he said.
Others didn’t even get the sap.
“It was terrible. I made five gallons,” said George Bailey of Mansfield, Conn.
“I can’t imagine why sap didn’t run. Some days the weather was just right, 20s at night and 40s in the day and still nothing ran.”
Bailey only boiled twice the whole season.
Meanwhile, in Ohio, there were some very happy sugarmakers after two years of getting skunked.
“It just kept coming and coming,” said Aggie Sojka-Sperry of Chardon, Ohio. “We had a huge season.”
Sojka-Sperry said she boiled 27 times off her 5,800 taps. She made 2,500 gallons. At another point the farm had 50,000 gallons of sap in storage.
“I don’t remember ever getting as much sap as we did this season,” she said this week.
In New York, sugarmaker Bob Chambers, who boils with brother-in-law Keven Keyes, said the two had a big year.
“I’m gonna say we had our best season ever,” Chambers said on Thursday.
Chambers and Keyes made 3,700 gallons off of 9,000 taps and boiled the last time Tuesday night.
Nearby in Greenwich, N.Y. John and Michele Reid also had their best ever season, making 2,450 gallons off of 4,500 taps. The couple made 2,100 last year.
In Maryland, Leo Shinholt of Cumberland, Md. was enjoying one of his best seasons ever, after 60 years of boiling.
“March was ideal for us,” he said this week.
Shinholt said he rebored a lot of his 8,000 taps later in March and that process gave him a lot of extra sap.
In Vermont, most of the central and southern areas are shut down for the season.
But Michael Lourie and brother Jeff in Rupert, Vt. were still holding on during a boil on April 13. They also rebored holes.
‘We’re still making medium and the flavor is still pretty good, so we might as well keep putting it in the barrel,” Lourie said. He was trying to salvage an otherwise slightly down season up until this week.
In the Upper Midwest, sugarmakers are getting nervous.
“We had a run the third week in March, but nothing since,” said Stephen Saupe of Collegeville, Minn. “This time of year is normally our peak.”
Cold, ice and snow all hit the Upper Midwest this week.
The big question on the size of the U.S. crop will hinge on this coming week, when another cold snap is predicted to hang down from Canada and temper the trees in the big northern production regions of New York, Vermont and Maine.
“Wish we weren’t having another cold snap this weekend,” said Michael Farrell of Mansfield, Vt.
10,000-tap sugarmaker Joy Herfurth of Ellenburg, N.Y. was also worried about the cold.
“We’re hopeful for another week or week and half but it’s the middle of April,” she said.
Word is not out on the Quebec season so far other than it has been cold there too and a lot of syrup still needs to be made to make a crop.
“But in Quebec we can make a whole crop with five good days,” said Stephan Darveau, a longtime sugarmaker and rep for MemProTec.