Maple syrup season

During a good year for maple syrup, Vernon Duesler the owner of the Mud Road Sugar House in Ephratah, usually produces about 300 gallons of syrup by the end of March.

So far this year, he’s only made 100 gallons of syrup.

“The cold days we’ve been having have shut it down quite a bit,” Duesler said.

Jake Cichy, owner of the Brower Road Sugar House, 150 Brower Road, Gloversville, said his operation, which has 1,500 taps, has produced only 50 gallons of syrup so far this season, half of what he had produced at the same time last year.

“This winter won’t let go,” Cichy said Tuesday. “There’s no way of knowing how it will go, but the weather forcast looks promising for the next 10 days,”

Maple trees need freezing cold nights in the 25 degree range to make sap, but then require above-freezing temperatures, around 45 degrees, during the day for the internal pressure to build inside the tree, making the sap run. The typical sugaring season of the maple tree lasts from mid-February until early April.

Duesler said last year he produced about 400 gallons of syrup, down from a typical season of around 750 gallons. He said this season is on pace to be as bad or worse.

“Last year was a down year and we had a little more than 100 gallons made by around this time,” he said.

Duesler’s operation has about 2,200 taps, 1,300 of them equipped with a vacuum tube system that helps suck more sap out of the trees. Duesler said his vaccum system sucks about 50 to 60 percent more sap out of a tree than using natural gravity taps. He said the bad syrup producing conditions of the last two years have prompted him to use a vacuum system for all of his taps.

“I’m going to be looking into getting another vacum system for my smaller sugar bushes, which I’ve got about 400 taps for a couple of them,” he said.

Barbara Kirk, the operator of Peaceful Valley Maple Farms, 116 Lagrange Rd, Johnstown, said her restaurant is not affected when maple syrup production is down, because the maple syrup farm that supports the restaurant, which taps nearly 10,000 trees, always maintains a reserve of barrels of maple syrup so its supply is never low.

“Last year I think we made 2,300 gallons and we’re not able to retail all of what we make, so we wholesale the rest and bottle and use it throughout the year as we need it in the store,” she said. “When I get low, I’ll just bottle a couple of 40 gallon barrels for the store. We hold back about 10 or 12 barrels until we’re well into the season.”

Duesler said he believes there is still hope for a good maple syrup season because not all of the snow has melted. He said once the snowpack melts, maple syrup tends to run warmer and the sugar content goes down, which means more sap is needed for every gallon of syrup production.

“I’m going to stay optimistic,” he said.

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