Sweet season for maple producers

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Could be a banner season for industry

By Darrell Cole – Amherst News/Citizen Record
LEAMINGTON, N.S. – Mother Nature will have the final say, but early indications are it could be a banner season for maple producers across northern Nova Scotia.

Neil Ripley tests the maple sugar as it comes out the other end of the boiler at his Fenwick sugar camp. While the sap started flowing earlier than normal, production has remained strong at maple sugar camps across northern Nova Scotia. Photo by Darrell Cole - Cumberlandnewsnow.com
Neil Ripley tests the maple sugar as it comes out the other end of the boiler at his Fenwick sugar camp. While the sap started flowing earlier than normal, production has remained strong at maple sugar camps across northern Nova Scotia. Photo by Darrell Cole – Cumberlandnewsnow.com
Drew Hunter, president of the Maple Producers Association of Nova Scotia, said he’s hearing plenty of favourable comments from producers across the region. That’s after a rough year last season, brought on by heavy snow that damaged lines and made it difficult for producers to tap trees.

“It’s still early, and a lot can happen between now and the next few weeks, but the news I’m getting has been good,” said Hunter, who has a 7,500-tree operation in behind Springhill. “The weather has been really co-operating and we’re having some really good runs, much better than what we had last year.”

Last year, Hunter said that he and other producers found it tough going with the snow. It made it difficult to tap the trees and those who had vacuum system in place found it hard to keep the lines tight. Also, when the weather turned warm, it stayed warm and the sap stopped flowing consistently.”

“We’ve had none of those problems this year,” he said, adding he began boiling sap around Feb. 22 – at least two weeks earlier than normal. “We are hoping for the best and hoping what we have now will continue.”

Hunter, who has been producing maple products for more than 20 years, said he’s approximately 300 litres ahead of where he was at the end of last season and he expects the numbers to get better as long as the weather co-operates with cold nights and warm days – generally between -5 and 5 C.

There were concerns that the early season would impact yields, especially if the milder weather held, but Hunter said the weather has cooled enough since then that producers are expecting the sap to continue flowing.

“I’d say we’re three-quarters through the season. I caught the first two runs and was sort of lucky to do so. We just finished tapping in time. The syrup’s quality is staying light and the trees here aren’t showing any signs of budding. Hopefully we’ll get another good couple of weeks out of it,” he said. “It should be an average season for sure. Hopefully, it will be above average, but it will at least be average.”

Neil Ripley said he produced almost half a season by the end of February and said production has been just as strong this month. He estimates he has already tied last year’s production with several weeks left in the season.

“It’s been a great year for us,” Ripley said. “It’s up to Mother Nature how long we’ll go, but there’s no indication it’s going to end anytime soon. That’s good enough for us.”

Ripley operates one of three camps in Fenwick with his camp and the Thompson-Bouchard and Donkin camps being popular destinations for visitors looking for maple treats.

“It’s been very for all of us,” he said. “It has become a tradition for a lot of families to come out to the sugar camps. We’ve had some very busy days here and I don’t expect it will stop at least for another couple of weeks.”

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