Coronavirus means a lonely season for Vermont maple sugar-makers

Published: Apr. 6, 2020 at 5:46 PM EDT
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Social isolation means most of us won't get to visit a sugar shack this spring. But we can still celebrate the sweet stuff. Our Ike Bendavid visited with some sugarers who are wrapping up their season.

It's the end of the season for Palmer's Sugarhouse in Shelburne.

"Our season has ended. It seems like it's ended earlier than normal for us," David Palmer said.

For seven weekends in the spring, this sugarhouse is usually packed with locals and visitors.

"It's filled with people and energy. It's a great vibe," Palmer said.

It's too early to tell the success of the state's season but this sugar-maker says his production was a little bit down this year. And with coronavirus and no onlookers in the sugarhouse, his sales were, too.

"A pretty dramatic decrease in business in a financial part of our operation affected by not seeing the visitors that usually come in," Palmer said.

"We miss the people for sure," Michelle Palmer said.

Even without agritourism, Palmer's Sugarhouse said they have found other ways to get their product out to customers. The Palmers have turned to online ordering and in-person curbside pickup to meet the needs of the community and their business.

"I can make the products, the maple creams and the candies for easter," Michelle Palmer said.

Up the road in Milton at Georgia Mountain Maple, they say they have seen a rise in sales online.

"We have had more online orders then we have ever had," said Nick Lemieux of Georgia Mountain Maple.

And they are still boiling sap!

"We made a lot of syrup all at once and now it's starting to slow down," Lemieux said.

"When I talk to sugar-makers, it sounds like they are making what they made last year. So, when the sap was flowing, it was really flowing," said Allison Hope of the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers' Association.

Hope says that most of the state had a productive year. And even though there will be no maple open house weekend this year, they'll still have hope for the summer farmers markets.

"Maple syrup will keep. So if they don't bottle everything now, they will have it to sell later," Hope said. "I think they are cautiously optimistic that things will be fine in the long run."

Back in Shelburne, the Palmers are excited to open their doors again next season.

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