By NICOLE CARNEVALE
The end of March marked the beginning of the end of maple tapping for the North Country. It has been quite a month for local producers and their families. For instance, March 17-18 and March 24-25 marked the 17th Annual Maple Weekend, sponsored by the New York State Maple Producers Association. During the event, over 100 maple producers from across the state hosted events for interested participants to show how maple syrup and similar products are produced. Unfortunately, this season hasn’t had the most hospitable weather for maple tapping.
Warm days and cold nights are prime conditions for the ideal sap flow. “A typical maple producing season in the last few years has been from about March 1st until the middle of April,” explained Jean and Ken Tupper, owners of Tupper’s Hilltop Maple Treats. “However, the weather is not favorable every day. Last year we boiled 28 days during that time. The year of 2010 we boiled 2l days. This year has been very poor due to the warm weather conditions and we boiled only nine days,” they continued. The North Country isn’t alone in having to deal with such conditions. “We believe this is typical all over the East Coast,” explained the Tupper family.
Maple syrup production has long time been popular in the New York State. In fact, the state is second, only to Vermont, in both production and value. It’s become a tradition that is often passed down from generation to generation. “We have been making maple syrup in St Lawrence County since the early 90’s. I have a three way partnership with Rob and Lyal Newvine and we produce and label under Miner Street Maples. We have 700 taps all on buckets and pretty much do it the old fashion way,” said Ken Lawrence of Miner Street Maples.
Visiting and touring the maple syrup farms and production centers are a great family activity as well. “Children love to come out help gather the sap and sample the fresh syrup. I grew up making maple syrup in Vermont so it’s kind of in my blood,” explained Lawrence.
The Annual Maple Weekend, which took place during the last few weeks of March, drew quite a crowd. This was no surprise to local producers. “The farm runs free tours and during the off-season, we try and market our products at the local Farmer’s Market,” explained Cheryl Kenyon, co-owner of the Adirondack Gold Maple Farm. When asked about their most popular product this season, she said that light syrup has been soaring in sales.
So what marks the end of an average maple tapping season? Too many warm days and not enough bitter cold nights will pretty much do it. Once this kind of weather pattern takes hold, “The trees start to bud it’s over. You might make some sugar after that but the flavor will be bitter and undesirable to eat,” explained Lawrence of Miner Street Maples.
From what it seems like, producers know and understand that there are good seasons and there are not-so-good seasons. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to predict how a season is going to turn out. Sometimes, those things are just left to Mother Nature herself. Lawrence recalled, “I am 65 and have been involved with maple syrup production since I could walk and I will tell you that there is no way to predict exactly when the season will end until it is over.”