How Vermont Producers Look to Expand During Sugaring Season

Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks is looking to expand their number of taps to increase the operation’s profitability as it enters the tapping season. Photo: Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks

As the 2017 sugaring season comes into full-swing, New England maple producers are taking a variety of steps to make the most of this and future seasons.

Burr Morse of Montpelier, Vermont-based Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks works with his son to keep expanding their sugaring operation for the current season and future operations.

“We’re constantly upgrading,” Morse noted. “We’re only at 6,000 taps, which is small compared to the bigger operators.” However, Morse expects to add about 10 percent more taps for the season as part of his on-going expansion goals.

His sap collection uses a plastic approach including the taps, and the 5/16-inch tubing, with every tree having a vacuum going to it.

In Williamston, Vermont, William Graham’s 8,200-tap Graham Farms Maple sugarhouse is also eyeing expansion to its sap collection vacuuming system in preparation for the sugaring season.

“In some sections of our woods, we were running just one straight one-inch line,” Graham said. “Now we’ve expanded that to run two one-inch lines, giving us two inches of vacuum space to get to some of our trees.”

Continued Expansion Efforts by Maple Producers

Graham has also expanded his sales preparation by continually reaching out to local Vermont retail outlets and increasing his website presence to increase sales. Morse said he’s looking to expand his number of taps to increase his operation’s profitability through higher retail margins by reducing his reliance on third-party syrup producers.

“Our situation is maybe a little better than some. Some of the big operators are tied right into bulk syrup sales. They sell it in barrels or drums for a per pound price to a packer or a retailer,” Morse explained. “As a retailer, we’re able to put every drop of syrup we make into our own containers and sell them at a retail price. We’re able to turn over the syrup here for a higher price.”

Morse takes advantage of his expansive retail space that’s frequented by tourists and mail order business to obtain the higher retail margins. With annual sales of 7,000 gallons in 100 ml containers to gallon size containers, he’s increasing his taps to increase internal production from its current 20 percent share of his consumer facing sales.

Despite the drought’s grip on New England, Morse isn’t too worried about it impacting his land’s water supply. Graham and Morse aren’t too concerned about this year’s snow fall levels on sap production, but Morse stayed mindful of the weather’s impact on sap production.

“My feeling is if we get the sugar weather, which is freezing nights down in the mid-20s and thawing days up in the 40s for a few weeks, we’re going to have a good season,” Morse noted. “We’re hoping for another good season where we get 3 weeks or a month of good cool sugar weather. We had a season back in 2012 where we had a great week of sugaring around the first part of March. Then it turned to summer for 10 days and we lost our sugaring right there. That can happen and it’s nothing anyone can predict.”

Whatever the weather does, Morse said that vacuuming sap can provide a little buffer against temperature fluctuations, but ultimately it’s up to Mother Nature.

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