Saturday, March 23, 2013

Cold Temperatures Freeze Sap Run in New York

Tree where workers at Red Schoolhouse Maple demonstrate drilling taps.

Well, the calendar says spring. 

It should be the height of the maple syrup season.

But these cold temperatures have brought things to a halt, some producers say.

Saturday and Sunday make up the second of two Maple Weekend events in New York state. Maple producers open their doors for tours, sales and some even put on delicious pancake breakfasts.

But some producers, like Kim and Kevin Enders at Red Schoolhouse Maple in Palermo, Oswego County, didn't have any sap to boil during their open house Saturday.

"It it's not above freezing and there is no sun, the sap doesn't run," she said while taking a short break during Red Schoolhouse Maple's pancake breakfast. "We're hoping for a slight gradual warmup this week."

The Enderses tapped their maple trees about Valentine's Day and boiled for the first time March 1. For a while, the weather was cooperating, with temperatures in the 40s during the day and a bit below freezing at night. These fluctuations in temperature are needed to build up pressure in the tree and force the sap out of the taps.

Folks enjoying a pancake breakfast during Maple Weekend festivities at Red Schoolhouse Maple March 23.

Helen Thomas, executive director of the New York State Maple Producers, said these cold temperatures are not hurting the season, just putting it on hold a bit. She said what producers really are praying for is for temperatures to warm gradually -- a quick warmup to 60s or above would make the trees bud, and once that happens, the sap stops flowing and the season is over.

That's what made last year such a disaster. The days and days of 70s and 80s in March brought the buds out on the trees and ended the season after only about three or so weeks. New York producers made only 360,000 gallons of syrup in 2012, down from 564,000 gallons in 2011, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service New York office.

U.S. maple syrup production in 2012 was down 32 percent from 2011 -- from 2,794,000 gallons to 1,906,000 gallons.

Thomas also said the large amount of snow in the Tug Hill area and snow that has fallen elsewhere in New York since the first day of spring on March 20 also will not hurt maple production. In fact, she said it should help, as the snow cover will provide more water for the trees.

Thomas reported that in Central New York, producers have harvested about half a crop to date. Other parts of the state are behind -- Western New York has seen about a quarter of a crop so far and the Tug Hill area has harvested about 10 percent of a crop.

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