When maple season arrives in Vermont, I’m always drawn to the sugar houses of rural Addison County. We recently visited Bread Loaf View Farm in Cornwall, which was open to the public for the annual Maple Open House Weekend. The farm is a 30-acre maple sugar operation owned by Middlebury College alums Churchill and Janet Franklin of Concord, Mass.
Not much sap is flowing in Vermont at the moment because of unseasonably cold temperatures. But sugar makers remain cautiously optimistic and hope the weather will cooperate in April. In fact, this year seems to be a throwback to sugaring seasons of long ago, when it was unheard of to tap maple trees in February or to be boiling by Town Meeting Day in early March.
Even though Vermont’s maple season is off to a late start, there’s still time for things to turn around.
“Not all hope is lost, by any means,” says Matthew Gordon, executive director of the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers’ Association.
Two years ago, the sugaring season started early but ended too soon. “That was a great example of how an early season does not mean a good season,” Gordon says. “In 2012, we had nine or ten days over 60 degrees in March and the season was cut short. Any experienced sugar maker will tell you they recall years where they started boiling later than this.”
Henry Marckres, chief of consumer protection and maple specialist for the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, says that Vermont has historically produced a majority of maple syrup in April. “If Mother Nature gives us the freezing nights and warming days, we can produce a lot of syrup in a two-week period,” he says.
The weather is looking to do exactly that over the next several days.
“We don’t necessarily need a long, slow spring to have a good season,” Gordon says. “If we have 10 days of highs between 40-45 degrees and each night the temperature falls back to 26-28 degrees, there would be a whole lot of sap flowing and a lot of sleep-deprived sugar makers, that’s for sure.”
After a cold, snowy, winter, we’re more than ready for maple season.