"Franklin County has a huge dairy industry and a lot of dairy farmers just diversify and do maple also," said Cecile Branon of the Vermont Maple Festival.
A ceremonial toast of maple milk kicks off the 46th annual Vermont Maple Festival in St. Albans.
There's plenty to do and to eat, but one of the busiest spots-- the sugarhouse, of course, where folk bellied up to the bar. Here the shots are free. So is the advice on the best way to eat syrup.
"Pancakes!" one person said.
"The sugar on snow-- that's what I'm here for," said Tawny Allen of Hinesburg.
And opinions on vary on which grade gets top marks.
"I used to be a grade B person, but fancy is really nice. It's good and it's got good flavor to it," said Julia Hoogasian of Wolcott.
"Anything that makes me want to make pancakes," said Jamie Archer of Wolcott.
This is a fun and cheap way to enjoy Vermont's liquid gold which is averaging about $45 a gallon in northern Vermont; up to $60 in southern Vermont.
"It's worth every penny," said Lauri Mansfield of Hinesburg.
And prices are expected to climb soon. You can blame high temps for that. A stretch of high temperatures of 70s and 80s in march-- mid sugaring season-- slowed the sap and ended production sooner than usual for many sugar makers, like Curtis Archer, whose production was just a quarter of what it typically is.
"If we got one day of heat, we'd be alright. We got four, so the trees started budding," Archer said.
We'll know for sure the average price per gallon once final production numbers come in from Vermont, Canada and Maine around May 1. Factoring into the price tag; fuel and container costs are up. But sugar makers don't want to raise the price too much.
"We're trying to be careful. We want to keep syrup flowing to the consumer. We want to be sure they are able to afford it and put it on their table," Branon said.
Vermont leads the nation in syrup production and St. Albans calls itself the maple capital of the country.
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