Maple syrup producers throughout the area are getting their taps and lines ready in preparation for the sap to flow.
But the maple sap is expected to flow a bit later than normal this year because of the unseasonably cold weather.
“We may be pushing it back a week; it’s hard to know,” said Jerry Lape, president of the Schoharie County Maple Festival. “It all depends on what this cold spell does.”
Typically, producers begin tapping the trees by Presidents Day, but sap collection has been pushed off until mid-March some years.
Maple syrup production is highly dependent on the weather, making it nearly impossible to predict how a maple season will turn out. Sap begins to flow in the trees when the weather is steadily above freezing during the day and below freezing at night.
“The longer the weather stays like that, the longer the season is,” Lape said.
Maple season normally lasts about a month. On rare occasions, sap collection stretches into April.
Once the weather warms up, the buds on the trees start to swell and the sap stops. “Once it gets warm and doesn’t freeze, the season is about over,” Lape said.
Michael and Marijeanne Broadwell of Carlisle are in gear preparing for the season. Michael Broadwell said he has been trekking out to his trees to check his taps and fix his lines. He has to make sure branches haven’t destroyed his lines, and he said his biggest problem is with squirrels that chew through the lines.
He also has to make sure all of his equipment in the sugar house is working properly to start converting the sap into maple syrup.
The family has about 400 taps on their land and on a neighboring family member’s land. Last year, they produced 165 gallons of maple syrup, a record amount.
“The weather was really conducive last year,” he said. “We’re anxious to break that record this year.”
While the start of the season may be pushed back for producers, it won’t make much of a difference because most of the sap collection occurs in March anyway, Broadwell said.
“There is no way of telling what it’s going to do,” he said. “You can have the majority of your syrup made in a week or two if you have the right weather conditions in February or March, but you could sit idle for three or four weeks depending on the weather.”
David Campbell, president of the New York State Maple Producers Association, said he thinks the timing of the season is about normal this year.
“The main season doesn’t get going until the first part of March,” he said. “If it’s still too cold in the middle of March, then we start worrying.”
Campbell is actively working on his taps and lines and said his 7,500 taps probably won’t all be ready until March anyway.
Campbell produces about 3,000 gallons of syrup on average. His business in Salem is called Mapleland Farms.
Even though the weather might be colder than the ideal, there isn’t much snow on the ground, which is making it easier for maple producers to get into the woods and tap their trees.
“It makes it a lot easier, but that could also change any day, too,” Campbell said.
Helen Thomas, executive director of the New York State Maple Producers Association, said she is glad she doesn’t have to wear her snowshoes this year to tap her trees.
Thomas said producers across the state are saying they are ready to go.
“What we like is a long spring,” she said. “Warm up slow and give us a lot of nights that are freezing.”
The Maple Producers Association is hosting two weekends this year to showcase the area’s maple producers.
Maple Weekend will be celebrated March 20-21 and March 27-28 this year, Thomas said. For information on events, visit www.mapleweekend.com.
“Maple syrup is the first agricultural harvest of the year,” Lape said. “That’s the way we look at it. It’s the sign of a new beginning when everything starts to warm up.”
The Schoharie County Maple Festival, scheduled for April 24, is celebrating its 45th year.
“We try to have a lot of demonstrations and lots of syrup and maple products,” Lape said. “Of course we have the pancake breakfasts.”
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