Vermont sugar makers report hit or miss season

Published: May. 30, 2023 at 3:46 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Vt. (WCAX) - Official numbers for this spring’s maple syrup season aren’t expected until next month, but farmers so far have been reporting a mixed bag.

Andy Aldrich has turned his attention to surveying Christmas tree damage following the recent cold snap, but maple is still fresh on his mind after a sweet spring. “This was my best year,” said Aldrich, the owner of Aldrich Maple & Christmas Tree Farm in Richmond.

He says he produced almost 1,400 gallons of syrup from his 2,700 taps. But he says not everyone was so lucky. “My closest neighbors just said their sap really never got going and they’re a mile from here,” he said.

Aldrich has no explanation for the varying conditions but has heard from another producer in Essex Junction that it extends beyond his road in Richmond. “He’s got good orientation, he’s modern, and there is a good fair equal comparison between how the two places are run, and you can’t say why,” Aldrich said.

He says there are too many variables in sugaring to single out one reason as the culprit for the odd year but industry officials agree it was a mixed bag. “It’s just a little bit of everything,” said Allison Hope with the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association. In general, She says southern Vermont appeared to have faired better than northern areas. But head into the higher elevation areas in Windsor or Bennington Counties and Hope says their results were uneven. “There are so many variables.”

Along with the orientation of the sugarbush, elevation, and temperature variables, this winter also brought two major winter storms that damaged sugarbushes and hoses. Hope says the saving grace was a high sugar content. “Even in areas where sap flow wasn’t as good as they maybe wanted, because the sugar content was as high as it was in the sap, it wasn’t as bad of a year as it could have been,” she said.

Hope says the varying results present a good opportunity for farmers to refocus on things they can control. Aldrich adds it also serves as a great reminder of the variables they can’t control. “Whatever it is, Mother Nature is in control,” he said.