by Andrew Martin & Mickey Smith
Sugaring season in Lamoille County is still in full swing. A nearly two week break between sap runs for many syrup producers put a scare into some about the future of the 2013 season, but a bout of good sugaring weather since that time has quieted those fears and resulted in some high quality syrup being produced.
“I’m feeling a lot better this week than I was the week before,” commented Butternut Mountain Farm owner David Marvin in a phone interview on Thursday, March 28. Along with ope
rating his business Marvin also has a 15,000 tap sugarbush in Johnson. He explained that even with the start of the season being interrupted by the cold snap, the warm weather since then has resulted in at least a quarter of a good crop being produced by his operation already.
“Compared to last year this year feels pretty good,” explained Marvin in reference to the disastrous sugaring season in 2012.
Marvin also explained that along with having the makings of a good-sized crop much of the syrup being produced around Vermont is of very high quality thus far. A majority of the syrup coming into Butternut Mountain Farm this season is either Fancy or Grade A Medium Amber, with the Fancy often being much lighter than required.
Despite the lightness there just seems to be superior flavor this year,” explained Marvin, “The flavor is as good as I can remember… there is a robustness in the maple right now. ”
This sentiment is echoed by Kenneth Desroches, of Cambridge, who, along with running his own 800 tap sugarbush near the Cambridge Industrial Park, is also the representative for the Lamoille County Maple Sugar Makers Association and distributes the jugs for the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association.
“The syrup is excellent in quality,” stated Desroches in reference to his own product. He explained that while he hasn’t seen the quantity of sap in his runs that he would like to, the quality makes it hard to complain.
“Most of what I have made so far is Fancy,” he explained while also adding that many of the other sugar makers he has spoken too are reporting the same thing, “The darker syrup grades may get the short end of the stick this year.”
“This has turned out to be a high quality syrup season,” he continued, “I’ve seen seasons where the Fancy had poor taste… but this year the flavor is very strong even when the syrup is lighter then Fancy has to be… I think its going to be a good season.”
Desroches also stated that the quality of the syrup being produced around Lamoille County this year is highlighted even more due to the poor season last year. Desroches himself tapped too late in 2012 and nearly missed the season, making only 65 gallons when he normally makes at least 80 on an average year. Desroches feels that what has been a good season so far has the opportunity to continue. He stated that he has spoken with several other sugar makers who all feel that unless an extreme warm spell hits the area there is a chance the season could go into mid-April
“That would make it about a two-month season,” Desroches explained, “I’ve been sugaring since 1978 and I’ve only seen that once.”
“The long range forecast looks good, but we have been fooled by that before. I don’t dare predict the weather… I’m just very hopeful and optimistic,” stated David Marvin on where the sugaring season could go this year. “The other good news is that the market is strong, and a big crop would be a good thing to make sure we can fill the needs of all the consumers… It’s a good problem to have.”
UVM Maple Specialist George Cook said he hasn’t had a chance to talk with many sugar operators, probably because he’s been so busy with his own operation. Cook said in a normal year he makes 25 to 30 gallons of syrup. This year he is already at 35 gallons and it’s still going well. Surprisingly, he said, it has maintained its grade, as about 30 gallons he has made have been medium amber.
“With my little rig I seldom make fancy,” said Cook.
Cook said his season began on the first of March and went strong for about a week and a half. The week and a half cold snap in mid-March helped to recharge the trees and he said after making a couple gallons of dark amber his syrup returned to medium amber and stayed steady all last week.
He noted this past weekend it started to switch to dark amber, but he was okay with that, as he needed some to fill orders.
Cook predicted at least another good week. He said he wasn’t sure what the following week would hold, but by then some sugar makers might be ready for a break, as the woodsheds are probably going to be taking a beating.
He said another good thing to come out of this long season is space has opened up in the woodshed for downed trees that didn’t get cleaned up last year because no room was left after last year’s dismal season.