Sweet season for syrup producers

The 2008 maple syrup season may go down as one of the strongest in recent memory for New York produc

The 2008 maple syrup season may go down as one of the strongest in recent memory for New York producers because of colder weather.

New York maple syrup production in 2008 increased 44 percent from 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture..

Caroline Foote, co-owner of Maple Hill Farm in Cobleskill, said her operation, which has about 2,000 taps, produced 876 gallons, up from about 540 gallons in 2007.

“It was a great year. The weather worked out just right,” Foote said.

Maple syrup production requires nights with temperatures in the low 20s and days with temperatures in the low 40s. In 2007, many producers reported a warm spring stymied production.

“You need those conditions in the 40s during the day and then down in the teens at night because, basically, you’re tricking the trees into thinking at night it’s still winter and during the day it’s spring,” Foot said.

Agriculture officials estimate New York will produce 322,000 gallons, up from the 224,000 gallons produced in 2007 and close to the record high of 343,000 gallons produced in 1996.

Several local maple producers said 2008 was a record year for production. Dave Campbell, the owner of Mapleland Farms, an 8,500-tap operation that straddles the Washington County towns of Salem, Argyle and Greenwich, said in the 35 years he’s been in the maple syrup business he’s never produced so much.

“We produced 3,500 gallons, [last year] was only around 3,000,” Campbell said. “Most all of New York had a good season except the northern most parts. Parts of northern Vermont did poorly, Maine did poorly and Canada did very poorly. What hurt them more than anything was deep snow. Once the sap flow weather did get up there the snow was still so deep it kept the trees too cold.”

Only Vermont produced more syrup than New York in 2008, 500,000 gallons, up 11 percent from 2007. Production in Maine, at 215,000 gallons, decreased 4 percent from last season.

Agriculture officials put the average price of syrup from the U.S. 2007 crop at $33.50 per gallon, down 7 percent from 2006. That figure also includes low-grade syrup averaged in with the more expensive table grade.

Sugar content this year was high across New York with Grade A medium amber syrup accounting for 46 percent of production, with 42 percent Grade A light and 12 percent Grade A dark amber.

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