Syrup production continues on at Thunder Basin Maple Works in Cambridge while snow continues to cover the summit of Mount Mansfield in the background.
The end of the season has come for more operations this past week. The sunny skies and the warmest temperatures seen in quite some time will likely halt production by this weekend for many operations. Across the board, the reports are of a good to great season. Many producers report gathering sap during the early warm weather. Even those who did not collect early appear to be on track for a good crop. Operations in the northern third of the state continue to collect sap, with especially cool pockets reporting clear sap and good quality syrup being produced.
The sense from around Bennington county is that most producers had a great production season. It also appears as though less Golden syrup was produced this year. One producer with a higher elevation sugarbush (~2,500’) reports boiling twice last week with the syrup taking on a slight metabolism off flavor following a period of cold weather. The off flavor was no longer present on Tuesday (4/12) when more syrup was produced. Sap flow at this location was generally poor over the past week. Sap sweetness averaged 1.9%. Syrup produced was Dark or Very Dark during this period. Another producer reports a season long syrup yield reaching 4.04 pounds/tap so far. Some operations are reporting below average sap sweetness while others are not.
In Windham county a producer reports that production is continuing for a while longer. They will likely end production this week as warm weather returns. So far the season long production stands at just over 5.5 pounds of syrup/tap. Some of that production was from buckets. The bucket only production was just under 3 pounds of syrup/tap. Peepers were heard at this location on Wednesday (4/13).
In Washington county, one producer reports boiling last Friday (4/8) for the first time in a week. The syrup had ‘end of season taste, color and smell. Syrup didn’t filter well either’. The total syrup yield at this location has reached just under 3.4 pounds/tap. This operation plans to keep going until buddy syrup is produced.
In Addison county, one producer reports below average sap flow over the past week. The sap sweetness has dropped to 1.5%. Dark syrup was produced with no off flavors and very little sugar sand. Total syrup yield at this location has reached 4.13 pounds/tap.
In Chittenden county, one location reports reaching 6.8 pounds of syrup/tap. Syrup grade is Amber to Dark with some off flavor. Another location reports sap sweetness has dropped to 1.5-1.6%. Total season yield has reached just under 6.6 pounds of syrup/tap. Late season syrup flavor (perhaps a light buddy) is being reported.
Vacuum sap collection chamber at UVM Proctor Maple Research Center. These chambers are part of an ongoing, long-term project investigating sugar maple (Acer saccharum) stem growth response to two levels of sap extraction (high vacuum and gravity) compared to control (no extraction). 2016 was the third year of this project.
In Lamoille county, one producer that finished on March 31st reports that sap sweetness appeared to be lower than normal for that location. 3-4 early sap runs averaged 2-2.2% at most. Everything since then has been below 2.0%, with last week’s sap testing at 1.4-1.5%. This operation has made all Dark or Very Dark syrup. Another sugar maker reports very little sap this past week. A short run on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning (4/7-4/8). Sap sweetness was 2.0% or just below. Syrup grade has been Amber to Very Dark with no off flavors this past week. Total syrup yield at this location has reached 4.25 pounds/tap. One more producer in Lamoille county reports generally good sap flow over the past week. The sap sweetness at this location averaged 1.7% over this period. Syrup being produced is now Amber with some light buddy off flavor. The overall sense around Lamoille county is that it has been and excellent production year. Some say it has been the best year ever (although changes and improvements to the tubing systems may account for some of the added production).
The season continues in Orleans county where one producer reports good sap flow last week (4/7-4/8) until the cold weekend weather shut everything down. Sap sweetness was 1.6% over this time. Syrup produced was Dark with no off flavors reported. A run on Monday (4/11) saw sap sweetness climb up to 1.8% and syrup grade lighten to Amber. New sap is reported to be clear.Total season syrup yield has now reached 5.0 pounds/tap at this location.
In Caledonia county one producer reports that sap sweetness has been high this year. This operation has only collected sap below 2.0% for 6-8 hours all season. The last test of sap was 2.2%. The syrup was a ‘great tasting Amber/Rich’ that the sugar maker was convinced would be commercial. This producer thinks they will be able to continue through this week but expects the sunny weekend weather will negatively impact syrup flavor. Total syrup yield has reached 4.89 pounds/tap at this location.