October 22, 2021

Maple production disappoints

Regions across New York call this season one of worst in years

Jamie Costa/staff reporter

Syrup is displayed outside of Cooper Hill Maple farm’s sugar house in Marathon in the March Cortland Standard file photo.

You’ll have a chance to stock up Saturday with your favorite maple products. You might want to think about doing just that.

While, Cooper Hill Maple of Marathon has typically produced 595 gallons of maple syrup a year — and this season is no different — production across Central New York has been dismal at best, an industry leader said.

Helen Thomas, executive director of the New York State Maple Producers Association, said the maple production season lasted about a week and a half this year. In past years, it’s lasted several months.

“All regions of New York state are reporting that this is one of the worst crops we’ve had in several years because of the way the weather was so quick to warm up in March,” Thomas said. “It was cold and then all of a sudden it was maple weather and then it was 70 degrees.”

The sap is the blood of the tree, Thomas said. During the winter, it’s stored in the roots and as the weather warms, the trees move the sap up into the branches to produce leaves and buds.

Once the leaves and buds are grown enough, the trees no longer need the sap, Thomas said.

“We need 45-degree days for the sap to start the sap flowing up to the buds and 28-degree nights so it goes back down into the roots,” Thomas said. “When it doesn’t freeze at night, the sap process doesn’t cycle and there is no production the following day for anyone to collect sap.”

This season, the cycle of freezing and thawing happened over a few days before the temperatures stayed above freezing, Thomas said.

“It wasn’t just warm, it was 60 to 70 degrees,” Thomas said, who co-operates a 350-acre farm in Bennington. “Where my farm is, I’ve never seen the silver maples open up and blossom in March and they did by March 29.”

Genegantslet Maple Products of Smithville Flats experienced similar challenges. Its season, which usually runs from mid-February to mid-April ran March 1 through March 31, said Beth Tomanek, whose husband, Joe, owns the farm.

The syrup that was produced was mostly dark with good flavor, Tomanek said. But on Tuesday, the farm dumped 5,000 gallons of sap due to off flavor and smell.

“It was unsuitable for any use,” Tomanek said.

As the weather warms near the end of the sugaring season, sap begins to warm, spoiling the collection, reports The Maple News, a trade publication.

But Cooper Hill Maple had a different experience.

While other local maple farms produced less than average amounts, Cooper Hill is still boiling its sap collection, said Christa Boice, in charge of public relations for Cooper Hill Maple.

“We are probably going to have an average production year,” Boice said. “We are still boiling, but we have a north-facing woods that stays cooler longer and helps us produce syrup longer than neighboring farms.”

“Other productions may have started before us but we didn’t start boiling until March 1 this year,” Boice said.

Cooper Hill Maple will sell its maple products Saturday at the Central New York Maple Festival in Marathon.