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March 14, 2013 By adminEveryone’s favorite Canadian astronaut/YouTube sensation is back to explain how food tastes in space. The answer: different! Sort of. As soon as you enter orbit, your Read More »
March 14, 2013 By adminExpecting better season than last year The sap at sugar bush farms in New Brunswick is flowing ahead of schedule, which has maple syrup producers expecting Read More »
March 14, 2013 By adminHADLEY, Mass. (Mass Appeal) – No plate of pancakes…or waffles… is complete without a helping of syrup. But how is this sticky goodness made? Well we Read More »
February 01, 2013 By admin“Natural maple flavor,” caffeine, butter flavoring, and invert sugar are just four of the ingredients that make up the unholiest of breakfast condiments, Wired Wyatt’s Caffeinated Syrup, Read More »
August 06, 2012 By adminWhat do glaciers, maple syrup and lobsters have in common? They’re all symptoms of global warming — the worldwide process of climate change that has become Read More »
Tag Archives: maple syrup production
Gov. Scott Walker is requesting federal agricultural disaster declarations for losses incurred this year by Wisconsin fruit tree growers and maple syrup producers.
The requests, made to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, were announced Friday by the governor’s office.
The fruit tree loss request is for the entire state and the maple syrup loss request is for 14 counties in central and northern Wisconsin.
“Agriculture is the backbone of Wisconsin’s economy and many farmers are hurting as a result of unseasonable weather over the last year,” Walker said in a news release. “The hot conditions in March, followed by a cold, wet April, damaged many crops, including Door County cherries and northern Wisconsin’s maple syrup harvest.”
If the requests are approved, affected growers and syrup collectors could possibly qualify for federal assistance.
State agriculture officials estimate losses to the state’s fruit trees, mainly made up of apples and cherries, could approach 80 percent.
The maple syrup losses in Barron, Door, Florence, Forest, Kewaunee, Langlade, Lincoln, Marathon, Marinette, Pierce, Polk, St. Croix, Shawano and Vilas counties were more than 30 percent
Somerset County Maple Producers’ Association celebrated another successful maple season this past year during its annual meeting and banquet June 29 at Berlin Community Building with more than 100 attending.
The banquet is held every year after the producers’ harvest season and long after they have put away their equipment and filled their containers.
Everett Sechler, the president of the organization, welcomed the members and guests and conducted the business meeting. Matthew and Stephanie Emerick, Ed Emerick and his girlfriend, Diane Dunmeyer, all representing Emerick’s Pure Maple Products in Southampton Township, which was awarded the 2012 Maple King Award by John Wendel from Somerset Rotary Club, sponsor of the award. Maple king is a contest of maple products held the Friday prior to the Pennsylvania Maple Festival every spring. This year’s contest for maple king had more than 50 camps represented.
Both Matt and his father, Ed, work fulltime for the railroad out of Cumberland, Md., and they produce maple syrup in February and March as a hobby. Both have been maple king in the past.
Joel Friedline, representing Walnutdale Maple Farms, received this year’s Champion Syrup Award, sponsored by PNC Bank. Joel and Mary Friedline own and operate the camp along with Joel’s parents, Carna and Lowell Friedline. Joel’s brother, Jonathan, operates a dairy on the same farm, and Joel helps on the dairy farm as well as operates the camp. It’s truly a family activity at Walnutdale with aunt and uncle, Lynette and Dick Ely, also helping out.
Lynette Ely serves as secretary for the association and read the minutes from last year’s annual meeting. Kyle Hillegas, treasurer, gave the treasurer’s report. During this year, income came from Mountain Craft Days, container orders, membership dues, farm show and fair booth premiums and miscellaneous income in the amount of $53,845.
Expenses went out to advertising, the June banquet, business miscellaneous, Mountain Craft Days, container orders, state membership dues, mileage, postage, state meeting mileage, memorials, festival, postage, tax exempt status and miscellaneous in the amount of $58,057.
With a beginning balance of $14,701, the organization had an ending balance of $10,489 after expenses.
Also during the evening, Mary Friedline, activity director for the association, gave the activities report and reported that this year’s maple king contest was a banner year with many camps represented.
She explained that it had been a busy year, starting with such activities as Somerset County Fair in August and shortly afterwards, Mountain Craft Days in September, and then the Pa. Farm Show in Harrisburg in January, where Somerset County members received good scores.
Melissa Friend, president of the Maple Festival Association, explained that she admires both aspects of the complimentary team of maple producers on one hand and festival board members on the other.
“Both sides work so hard to enhance the maple industry,” said Friend. “There are several producers who volunteer at the festival and we appreciated everyone’s help.”
Miguel Saviroff, Extension agent at Penn State Cooperative Extension in Somerset, congratulated the producers for a good year and encouraged them as a viable county entity.
Queen Maple Hannah Taylor of Boswell said learning about maple production has been a rewarding experience and that she has had a very busy year so far attending various events, like National Day of Prayer, Berlin Block Party and Grantsville Days. She thanked her mother, Gretchen Brant, for being her biggest supporter.
State Rep. Carl Metzgar was unable to attend because he is working in Harrisburg, but Marcia Atkinson attended in his place and presented the producers with a Pa. State House of Representatives resolution.
The directors are Lynette Ely, Gus Kern, Matt Emerick, Kyle Hillegas, Ron Brenneman, Everett Sechler, Mary Friedline, Gary Blocher and Mike Lynch coming on board for the first time.
A musical group called ‘Prayzer’ presented the entertainment for the evening and several door prizes were handed out amid a severe summer thunder storm.
While most people think of corn and soybean crops as those most affected by this year’s weather, the maple syrup crop also took a huge hit.
T&K Farms in Cadiz, Kentucky, is one of the few farms in the state to even produce maple syrup. Tim Wagoner and his family have been tapping trees for five years and have been a growing business until this year.
Between the warm winter and the dry spring, sap stopped flowing and without sap, there’s no syrup.
“We ended up with 37 gallons for the entire year and we had almost 300 more trees that we tapped this year than we had the previous year,”said Wagoner. “The previous year, we made right at 100 gallons.”
There are 826 trees tapped on the T&K Farms, connected by more than three miles of tubes. From the last week in December until the last week in February, sap is supposed to slide through them into huge tubs.
Wagoner said usually, it takes around 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. This year, that number was off, too.
“This year for us and I don’t know if it’s because of the drought or the lack of temperatures, we averaged about 49 gallons of sap for one gallon of syrup. I basically had enough syrup to meet all of my pre-orders and we kept about five gallons for ourselves,” he said.
Although the farm took a hit on syrup sales this year, the Wagoner’s aren’t giving up on the crop. They said luckily, they’ve been able to save each year just in case they had a tough season. Next year, they”d like to tap even more trees.
Gov. Scott Walker last week requested two federal disaster declarations for Wisconsin, in a bid to help farmers cope with losses resulting from extreme weather this year.
“Agriculture is the backbone of Wisconsin’s economy and many farmers are hurting as a result of unseasonable weather over the last year,” Walker said. “The hot conditions in March followed by a cold, wet April damaged many crops including Door County cherries and northern Wisconsin’s maple syrup harvest.”
The governor asked the USDA for a disaster declaration for the entire state for anticipated losses in the fruit sector, including apples and cherries. Official estimates suggest that total losses for the state could be in the region of 80%.
At the same time, however, the Wisconsin Cherry Growers Association stated that, even though this year’s cherry crop is lower than would be expected ordinarily, they are available for purchase.
“We originally anticipated a crop of 500,000 pounds out of a potential 12 million pounds,” said the statement from Terry Sorenson, president of the Wisconsin Cherry Growers, Inc. “That number now looks to exceed 700,000 pounds. This allows for plenty of cherries for the local farm markets.”
Sweet cherries are already on the market and the harvest of tart cherries is expected to begin this week, which is three weeks earlier than usual.
The record warm March cut the maple sugar season short this year and contributed to reduced production, according to both the New Hampshire Maple Producers Association and the area’s best-known maple producer.
“We were about 50 percent of normal in terms of volume of sap collected,” said Ron Roberts, owner of Parker’s Maple Barn in Mason, which collects sap from about 1,400 taps on tree from a number of properties. “I’ve heard that Vermont was about the same.”
The result of the shortfall is that prices for maple syrup are likely to rise.
In its annual season report, the state association says taps were set out at the regular time of late January, but that boiling – the process of driving most of the water out of tree sap to produce syrup – began as early as Feb. 7 and ended by March 19.
Parker’s stopped boiling March 18, about three weeks earlier than normal because, as Roberts said, “in mid-March, summer hit.”
The syrup association said the situation was similar for all producers.
“The last boil of the season came early for many producers in the southern part of the state as temperatures rose into the 70s and 80s for five days forcing the buds to develop and cause undesirable sap for boiling,” it said in a statement.
Partly as a result, the group said “most producers found they had 50 percent to 66 percent of an average crop, but reports of only 33 percent of an average crop was not unusual.”
The poor season follows a good to excellent season last year, when Vermont had record production, and a weak season in 2010.
Roberts said Parker’s syrup had good flavor this year, winning first prize at the annual contest held in Peterborough by the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, although sap was less sweet than usual, which means more boiling was required.
“Sugar was down at least a half a percent to a full percent,” Roberts said.
Despite the role that maple syrup plays in New Hampshire’s culture and tradition, the state is the smallest producer in Northern New England. In 2011, for example, New Hampshire produced 120,000 gallons of syrup; Maine produced three times as much and Vermont, the nation’s leader, produced almost 10 times as much: 1.14 million gallons.
New Hampshire was even outproduced slightly last year by the mid-Atlantic producers – New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio – as well as the upper Midwest states of Michigan and Wisconsin.
All American producers are dwarfed by Quebec, however. That Canadian province generates about three-quarters of the world’s maple syrup, making 10 times as much as Vermont.
In New Hampshire, the producers association said, most syrup “was in the medium to dark amber grades, but a fair amount of light was produced, and many producers reported making B and commercial grade.”
The association said Seacoast producers showing the strongest season.
On April 19, the federal and provincial governments invested almost $700,000 to help four maple sugar producers expand and improve their competitiveness.
The funding will help maple syrup producers Guy Levesque Inc., Érablymax Inc., Érablière Laplante et Fils Inc. and Érablière du Nord-Ouest Inc.
At Érablière Guy Levesque Inc., the project will help expand the establishment by acquiring more efficient maple syrup processing equipment and adding 7,000 taps to existing operations.
Producer Érablymax Inc. will replace 15,000 taps, while Érablière Laplante et Fils Inc. will install 23,000 new taps.
The project at Érablière du Nord-Ouest Inc. involves the conversion of two oil-burning evaporators to a wood pellet system.
The federal government, through ACOA’s Business Development Program, will contribute $530,350 toward the four projects while the province will invest $149,200. The four maple syrup producers will invest a total of $367,510.
No news that the weather is pretty strange lately and that includes in the Hudson Valley, where we’re amassing broken records at a record-breaking pace: the hottest March, the hottest first quarter, and most recently, the hottest April 15th, when it was 91. Another all-timer (at least at our house) is the annual magnolia trashing, this year the earliest by a country mile.
The pattern itself is always the same: 1) multi-week warm spell, 2) magnolia blooms, 3) seasonally-appropriate frost comes, 4) flowers turn brown. But it used to happen between late April and early May. Then the whole sequence moved back to April.
In 2012, all March. Bloom started around the 10th and was thoroughly whacked when the temperature dropped to 25 degrees on the night of the 26th.
Meanwhile, the combo of February and March was the 3rd driest on record and April is not shaping up well.
I could go on, among other things airing the usual caveat that this is weather, not climate. But I’d rather cut to this not-climate’s effect on the maple syrup industry, as described in the crop reports written by Arnold Coombs, a seventh generation maple syrup producer and packer in Vermont.
Full disclosure: The 2012 crop report abbreviated below was originally sent to me by the farm’s publicist, who thought it might provide a story about the connections between maple syrup and climate change.
Indeed it does. Especially when combined with Mr. Coomb’s reports from 2009 (best crop in the last 75 years) and 2010 (production dramatically below average).
Up, down, up, down, way hot, way not, dust-bowl dry and then hundred-year flooded, the globe is on a violent weather see-saw that is not well described by “warming,” a word that usually evokes something pleasant. “Climate change” is a little better, but not by much. Change isn’t always pleasant, but it’s beneficial at least as often as it is harmful, which cannot be said about the see-saw.
The search for a term that is both scientifically defensible and sufficiently horrifying is ongoing. Meanwhile, here’s an on-the-ground look at the shape of things to come, and following that, links to a few recipes. Maple syrup shortages and price hikes are probably inevitable, but they’re not likely to be crippling, especially given that our local, sustainable sweetener is not only delicious but also, for what it is, inexpensive.
2012 Preliminary Crop Report
By Arnold Coombs (edited and condensed by me)
Following a huge crop like 2011, the 2012 crop had a tough act to follow. The winter weather was most unusual with temperatures well above average. In southern VT and NH we had only two significant snow storms with the biggest being in October.
Because of the warmth and the lack of snow, getting around in the woods was much easier. Most sugar makers were ready to start producing early, but then in the week of March 19th, temperatures hit the 70s for four days in a row and ended our season prematurely.
This year, half of last year’s record amount seems to be normal, which translates into about 70% of an average crop for some, less for others. We estimate the final US production at 18,000,000 lbs. compared to over 30,000,000 lbs. last year. Canadian production looks to be similar. What does that mean for prices? They will be going up. How much? That is still to be determined…
The farmers’ union in Quebec increased the base of syrup price 3% and with other costs rising (what isn’t going up?) we see a minimum increase of 5%…. pricing usually settles down by Late May or early June.
Due to the warmer weather, this year’s crop is running darker than usual, (last year the crop was 30% Grade A Light Amber and this year it is 5%) but the flavor is still quite good and we have plenty.
Personally, I’m delighted. As long it isn’t “buddy” (off-flavored because the tree has started to leaf out) I like the darker grade B better anyway.
Many residents of Bradford County rejoiced this year with the early exchange of parkas for shorts and tank tops. Warm, dry weather has pervaded the county for much of 2012. Precipitation has been the exception, not the rule – a stark contrast from last year, one of the wettest in recent history.
However, the lack of rain has caused its share of problems as well. The area’s dryness has made brush fires easier to start and spread, and some soils have dried up as planting season nears for area farmers.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, Bradford County is just inside the section of northeastern Pennsylvania considered to be “abnormally dry.” While the designation stops short of putting the county into drought territory, an abnormally dry area is more prone to brush fires and dry soils.
Bradford County has seen short-term drought indicators in the past few months because of the lack of precipitation in late winter and spring, said meteorologist Jim Brewster of the National Weather Service. Because there was no leftover snow pack from winter, soils lost much-needed moisture that normally would have been provided by the spring thaw, he said.
Towanda weather watcher Wayne Vanderpool said he has measured about eight inches of precipitation between January and mid-April, about two and a half inches less than the average of 10.5 inches.
By contrast, last April was one of the wetter ones in recent memory, with 20 days of measurable precipitation, according to Vanderpool’s records. Last April, Vanderpool measured 10.4 inches of precipitation – more in one month than the county has seen so far in all of 2012.
While this year has been dry, Vanderpool stopped short of labeling this an abnormal spring just yet. Just the top few inches of soil have dried, and water tables appear to be minimally affected so far.
“We can make it up in one big storm,” he said.
The dry conditions have helped contribute to the spread of brush fires. The NWS has issued several “red flag warnings” for the area in the past month, indicating a higher risk of brush fire than normal.
Brewster said the red flag warnings are issued based on conditions including minimum relative humidity, amount of rain, wind speed and moisture content of grasses, sticks and smaller trees. Under fire weather conditions, any fires that develop will be capable of rapid spread and growth, according to the NWS.
The lack of rain keeps dead underbrush dry, and high winds help fires to spread, making outdoor burning dangerous at times. “The fire concern is the main worry right now,” Vanderpool said.
The weather has allowed area farmers to get a head start on the growing season, said Tony Liguori of the Bradford County Conservation District. The effect even extended to maple syrup producers, who were able to start early with decent results.
“It wasn’t the best of years,” Liguori said of the recent maple syrup yield, “but it wasn’t the worst, either.”
However, Liguori said that with freezing low temperatures forecast for the coming nights, certain plants – fruits, particularly – are at risk of damage.
Because there was no hard freeze this winter, there will also be more insects in the area this summer, he said.
One area farmer said she may have to use creative ways to keep her crops watered if the weather continues to be hot and dry. Sheila Russell, manager of Russell Sprouts Farm in Rome, said the dry weather is “a little disheartening, after all the rain we had last year.”
Russell said a planned irrigation system to water crops from a pond on the farm’s property has been expedited in anticipation of a possible dry spell. The few crops that have been planted so far this growing season are being watered by hand, something that won’t be feasible once the entire crop is planted.
Since the farm adheres to organic principles, Russell said the crew will be relying on mulch, leaves and newspaper in the fields to hold in moisture and keep the soil cool. The technique “will make our watering efforts go further,” she said.
According to the NWS, this week’s forecast shows a slight chance of showers Thursday night, with the probability of rain ramping up to 50 percent by Saturday.
As for the rest of spring, Brewster said the area may still receive a long, soaking rain before the drier summer months hit, which would ease drought and fire threats. A solid rainfall could bring rain totals back to average levels for the year, he said.
The NWS’s seasonal outlook shows that the county will likely stay out of drought status through at least June, but “it’s definitely something that we have to watch,” Brewster said.
Rising maple syrup production in Vermont is sending more sugarmakers across state lines seeking new buyers for their product.
Now, sugarmakers also are looking to Montpelier as legislators debate a bill that the Vermont Maple Sugarmaker’s Association says would make Vermont syrup more marketable on national and international markets. The bill, which passed the Senate and is now in the House Agriculture Committee, would change syrup labeling laws and establish a food safety certification program for sugarmakers.
Sam Cutting Jr., owner of Ferrisburgh’s Dakin Farm and chairman of the Vermont Maple Industry Council, said the voluntary certification system in particular would help sugarmakers in Vermont stay competitive.
The new certification would be administered by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, cost producers a fee between $300 and $500 (the certification would remain valid for a number of years) and involve a safety inspection of equipment and processes at the sugarhouse. It would be primarily for those sugarmakers who sell their product to a larger-scale maple syrup packager.
“There’s a real need, because up until this year there’s been a very large (Vermont) crop,” said Cutting. “If we don’t have this type of certification, buyers may look out of state.”
Just over the border, Quebec sugarmakers already have a quality assurance certification program.
Rep. Will Stevens, I-Shoreham, said last week that he still has some questions about the certification program as it stands. He said he’s not sure about administering a certification program through the Agency of Agriculture.
“It’s already in the conflicting role of development and enforcement,” said Stevens. “I’m not sure that the ag agency is disinterested.”
But he said that it’s not a bad idea to establish a proactive certification in addition to the existing system of quality checks after the maple products have been produced.
The bill would also alter the maple grading system from the current one, established in the 1980s — fancy, Grade A medium, Grade A dark and Grade B — to one that describes flavor and appearance — Golden, Amber, Dark and Very Dark. The four would all fall within the Grade A definition.
The new grading system would bring Vermont in line with the system approved by the International Maple Syrup Institute, which has proposed these changes to regulatory agencies in the United States and Canada by the 2013 sugaring season. Stevens said the USDA has agreed to adopt the new grading system as soon as one state adopts it.
Cutting said the proposed new definitions would help clarify the different types of syrup for consumers, since they also include taste descriptors like “strong” (for Very Dark) and “delicate” (for Golden).
Stevens said a key point for him is that the old system of grading wouldn’t have to be thrown out entirely — sugarmakers would only have one more piece of information to add to their existing labels.
Some sugarmakers, said Cutting, have misgivings about conforming to an international system, and about changing an existing system that they say is perfectly good. But Cutting said this offers more clarification for those unfamiliar with syrup type.
“People wouldn’t buy Grade B meat, but that’s one of the most popular types of syrup,” said Cutting. “We need to sell our syrup all over the world, and be clear to consumers what the grades actually mean.”
Prudent Living, an Upper Valley company offering services, strategies, products and a community that encourage a prudent way of life, including alternative energy solutions, is installing a large solar power system for Hidden Springs Maple Syrup’s new headquarters in Putney, VT. Hidden Springs is a family-owned and operated producer of pure maple syrup, selling on-line across the US. The new photovoltaic system will generate electricity and offset electric utility costs. The new PV system uses seventy-two 235-watt solar modules; the 17-kilowatt system generates enough energy to completely power three average homes. The new post-and-beam Hidden Springs headquarters is heated and cooled primarily by geo-thermal energy.
According to Prudent Living Vice-President Tim Biebel, the photovoltaic system is projected to save as much as 70 to 80% on electricity costs, depending upon usage. “This is a fantastic project,” Biebel stated. “What’s cool is Hidden Springs is making a product from nature– syrup–and now they will be doing that with clean energy from the sun. So, they will be using the sun for both their product and their process. Plus, it’s smart business. They’ve set themselves up for levelized energy costs: every year for the next 25 years they’ll know what their electricity costs will be. They are immune to electricity cost increases, thanks to this new PV system. We enjoyed working with a good environmental steward like Hidden Springs and are excited about the leadership they are showing.”
Renewable energy made so much sense to Hidden Springs that they decided to use an alternative energy solution to power their alternative energy solution. “We believe in renewable energy,” said Hidden Springs Manager Sarah Weck. “Our geo-thermal system powers the building, providing most of the heat in both the store and the attached house. But, the geo-thermal system requires a lot of electricity which costs a lot of money. So, we decided to put solar panels on our huge, southern-facing roof and use free solar energy to power our geo-thermal system. We’re very happy with our decision. Prudent Living has a lot of experience and did a great job explaining the process and installing the system. We look forward to generating so much free electricity with our new solar panel system that we’ll be able to offset energy costs at our other locations.”
Prudent Living is an Upper Valley company offering services, strategies, products and a community that encourage a prudent way of life. Started in 2009 by Biebel Builders, quality home and commercial builders in Windsor, Vermont since 1976, Prudent Living provides customers with energy-efficient architectural design; green strategies for homebuilding and renovation; energy audits; and renewable alternatives such as solar, wind and geothermal. More than just builders of houses, Prudent Living helps people build an intentional life –whether it’s by carefully managing natural resources, spending more wisely by investing in a home energy audit and energy efficient upgrades, or by safeguarding the health of the planet and contributing positively to the environment. The Prudent Living community relies on the dynamic web site, informative blogs and free quarterly Prudent Living e-Magazine for practical suggestions for daily life. The company will soon launch Prudent Living Market, an e-commerce site of prudent products.