Farming Magazine - May, 2008

SUGARING

Northeast Maple Business

The Season in Full Swing
By Larry Myott

As I write this, in mid-March, the sugaring season is just beginning in Vermont. Central New York Sugar Maker Dwayne Hill reports a strong start with more than 400 gallons of fancy. Bruce Bascom in Alstead, N.H., reports about a 50 percent crop to date in the southern reaches of the maple producing states in New England. He noted more than 8,000 gallons from his own 57,000 taps to date, mostly Fancy.

Down in Connecticut, Ron Wenzel reports that they are having the best season ever. In fact, they had so much sap pouring out of the trees that they used up the firewood, house wood included. Bob White in Underhill, Vt., reported a great start with very deep snow and very sweet sap—all Fancy so far.

Quebec, the world’s largest sugar making entity, hasn’t yet had any significant production.

It is reported that they have 6 feet or more of snow in the woods and they are digging out their mainlines and sugarhouses. We did that in Vermont several years ago; it makes for a very tiring crop. The snow in New York, southern Vermont and New Hampshire is reported to be anywhere from 18 inches to 3 or more feet in the woods.

The supply of maple syrup is nearly nonexistent at the beginning of the season. From all that I’ve been able to gather in the last few years, we have the lowest inventory of maple syrup that we have ever had given the market demands. There is a great opportunity to increase production. Several of our production areas have great potential. Adopting technology is not the only answer, but it will go a long way. The trees are there and the technology is there, now it is up to the producers to adopt that technology and increase the number of taps.

Sugar makers with more than 50,000 taps are becoming more common in Vermont. The syrup prices are high and still the demand is not being met for the current markets. Several sugar makers are now making half a gallon per tap—that is the way to increase production. Use current technology and less backbreaking work to make your sugaring business more profitable.

Thirty-five years ago, there were few people who actually made their living in the maple industry. That situation is changing rapidly. With business planning and production development, the industry allows producers, packers and others to live the life style they so desire. It takes a great investment in money, time and commitment.

Attending the summer tours, the winter workshops and studying the industry is the way to expand sensibly. As I have said many times over the years, sugaring isn’t just tradition anymore, it is business.

Thefts from sugarhouses

Early this winter we were hearing reports of sugarhouses being broken into and equipment being stolen. With the price of scrap metal at an all-time high, the sugarhouses were easy picking. If you haven’t already done so, lock up your sugarhouse. Filter presses are particularly attractive, as are preheaters, pans and anything copper. I’m sure that syrups would also be attractive, but the weight might be a deterrent.

In March, more sugarhouses were reported being broken into. Stolen were RO membranes, filter presses and a concentrate stainless tank from one Addison County (Vt.) sugarhouse. Another one had a tank of sap stolen. Unfortunately, we don’t live in the safe world that we used to. Make sure you have secured your valuables. Motion detector lights might a good small investment. I know some producers have installed burglar alarms.

Make sure your insurance policy has your sugaring equipment and maple syrup covered for theft. You work too hard to loose the end result.

The author is a retired extension maple specialist who continues to report on maple news from around the maple world.