Despite stubborn winter, maple syrup harvest was about average
Although last winter was long and cold, it turned out pretty sweet in the end -- at least for those maple product producers who have the right technology.
In all, about 61,000 gallons of syrup were produced during the 2014 Massachusetts sugaring season, falling slightly short of the 2013 season.
Although the winter cold lingered two weeks longer than usual, the sugaring season also lasted about two weeks longer, allowing producers to bring in an average-size harvest, according to Melissa Leab, a partner at Ioka Valley Farms in Hancock and president of the Massachusetts Maple Producers Assoc iation (MMPA).
"The peak boiling season was the end of March and early April," she said. "Normally that comes in mid to late March."
Ioka Valley averaged just over one-third of a gallon of syrup per tap, with just over 10,000 taps, Leab said. The goal is to get a half-gallon per tap.
The weather was harder on producers with limited vacuum capacity for enhancing the sap draw.
Andy Schmidt of Windsor Hill Sugar House in Windsor said only 1,000 of his 4,000 taps are on a vacuum system, though plans are in the works to vastly expand the operation. So sap from most of his taps are drawn through the lines by gravity.
"This was not a good year for gravity," Schmidt said.
The problem is that there was not enough fluctuation in temperatures from night to day. The daytime temperatures ranged from 28 to 34, but temperatures in the 40s would have been better for production.
"The greater the fluctuation, the better the production," Schmidt said. "We just didn't have a lot of fluctuation."
At room temperature, maple sap has the consistency of water, until it is boiled down to render the maple syrup.
Statewide, Leab said, production ranged between 75 percent and 90 percent of an average year per producer, but because there are more producers in the sugaring field, and more taps per farm, there was a higher volume of syrup produced.
"A lot of people are putting out more taps, so there is growth statewide," she said. "And there has been a gradual gain in the number of sugar makers as well as the number of taps."
Nationally, production of maple syrup was down about 10 percent, according to a report released by the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
But according to figures provided by the MMPA, Massachusetts only saw a decline of 3.2 percent, better than all but two other states. Sugarmakers in the Common wealth set 290,000 taps, just up from last year's 280,000.
"The fact that Massachu setts maple producers can produce such a good crop even in a year when the weather didn't cooperate is testament to their skills as sugarmakers, their use of new and sustainable technologies, and the growth of the industry in the Commonwealth," said Winton Pitcoff, MMPA's coordinator. "There's a growing demand for maple products, especially those made by local farmers, and Massachusetts sugarmakers are meeting that demand."
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