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Maple Production Up Despite Shorter Season

Vermont maple syrup jugs
WAMC/Pat Bradley
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Vermont maple syrup jugs

Maple production is up even though this year’s season was shorter.
The USDA Statistics Service recently released its report on this year’s maple production. This spring there were 4.24 million gallons of maple syrup produced in the United States, a yield that’s 1 percent above last year. USDA statistics also found that the season was shorter than last year, on average lasting only 30 days.

Vermont remains the largest producer of maple syrup in the U.S.  It increased the number of taps by 6 percent this year to six million and production 7 percent over last year to 2.07 million gallons.  Sugarmakers did that even though the state averaged a 34-day season compared to last year’s 52 days.   

Butternut Mountain Farm taps trees and buys sap from other farms, making it one of the largest maple syrup processors in Vermont.  Founder David Marvin says he visits dozens of sugarmakers during the season.  “This year was a little nerve wracking. They all are but it came late so production really wasn’t determined until the end of April and despite a very short late season most people did significantly better than last year. Except in the very cold north facing sugarbushes in northeasten Vermont and across the North Country.”

A number of factors contribute to the volume and success of the maple season, not just the length of time sap can be harvested.  Proctor Maple Research Center UVM Extension Maple Specialist Mark Isselhardt notes that sap flow is not a continuous process.  “The season itself is made up of these discreet events called sap runs and if you have a good number of them then the season will be good. The thing is you can have several of those sap flow events in a relatively short period of time, at least according to the calendar, and you can have a decent production season. Season duration is not always correlated with total production. It really depends on how many of those good quality sap runs there are and that is usually the best indicator of how good the season is.”

Marvin says the weather in April was favorable for large sap runs.  “Also this year the sap sugar content was significantly higher. So instead of taking 40 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup it might have taken only 30. So you can make a lot more syrup in the same amount of time and with the same resources if the sap itself is sweeter to begin with.”

Isselhardt confirms that sugarmakers across the producing region reported the sap itself was sweeter than average.  “I heard those reports from enough people in enough places that the sap was generally sweeter which is going to help the bottom line of producers since there’s less water that has to be removed to make the  same volume of syrup.”

Nationally the total number of tapped trees was down 4 percent to 13.3 million.  New York was the second-largest producer of maple syrup followed by Maine.  The USDA statistics indicated that 2019 maple production data from Connecticut and Massachusetts was not available.

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