Vermont Maple Bulletin 2017

The 2017 Vermont maple syrup production season has begun and with that comes the second year of the Vermont Maple Bulletin.  The Bulletin is an attempt to capture the week to week flavor of the maple season throughout the state.  The Bulletin is not intended to be rigorous analysis but rather a brief summary of the action during the season.  The first post of 2017 will be a somewhat abbreviated one as this is still the cusp of the season.  Many operations in Vermont have some made syrup as of today (2/21) but many more are still ramping up for the season.  Expect more detailed posts as more reports come in.  The next seven days have the potential for good runs of sap.

First a look back in time.  The beginning of the season came for some during the brief but significant warm period in January many more producers choose to wait out the January thaw.  The warm temperatures were fairly uniform across the state even some of the coldest pockets (see below).

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Responses from producers could generally be described as saying “it’s still too early to tap”.   Of course it won’t be until the end of the season that it will be known if going early was a good strategy.  Those operations that had begun tapping out of necessity (very large operations) or those that were especially interested in capturing early sap did make some syrup.  Generally, the total syrup produced from these runs of sap accounted for roughly 5% of operations total average crop. At least one operation reported reaching 10% of an average crop during this time.

A January report from much further south (Litchfield, Connecticut), had an operation at 1200 feet elevation tapped on 1/26-1/27, collected 400 gallons on 1/28 and boiled on 1/29.  With average sap flow rates that producer saw sap sweetness at 2.0%.  Syrup grade was Dark at this time with no off-flavors.  Total yield had reached just under 0.2 pounds/tap as of 2/4. One large producer in Lamoille County reported collecting sap from just over 13,000 taps during the warmth of the second week of January.  Sap sweetness was reported to range from 1.6-2.3%.  As of January 27th this producer had seen average sap flow rates, made Golden syrup with no off-flavors and accumulated 0.5 pounds of production/tap.

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Tree wells (the name given to when snow melts away from the base of a tree) are a good indication that sap flow is possible.  Sap flow in smaller trees tends to be more responsive to warming events but will generally produce proportionally less volume.  

A few scattered reports from around the state indicate seasonable sap sugar contents to good mid-season sugar contents.  It is hard to characterize this period without a larger number of reports.  Syrup quality appears to be good and some accounts of very good sap flow rates might be an sign that trees are not deeply frozen as can sometimes be the case this time of year.

Stay tuned for the next update.