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State Maple Producers Adjust to the Variables as Syrup Season Begins

Going with the Flow

State Maple Producers Adjust to the Variables as Syrup Season Begins

 

by Brooks Brown
NYFB Assistant Director of Public Affairsyancey1.jpg

 

If anyone lives by the expression, “Go with the flow,” it’s a maple producer and 2021, like last year, will be a challenging one due to factors out of their control. Like other farmers around the state and country in the wake of COVID-19, New York maple producers have abandoned traditional sales methods and adjusted to losing clients like restaurants and other bulk operations. This winter has the added twist of a much colder start to the year that has delayed tapping across the state.
Tony Van Glad, who owns Wood Homestead Maple in Stamford, NY (Delaware County), says his online sales have done well in the past year and that he’s also been successful selling at three green markets in New York City, although he’s lost the business of some restaurants and hotels that have shuttered due to COVID-19.f anyone lives by the expression, “Go with the flow,” it’s a maple producer and 2021, like last year, will be a challenging one due to factors out of their control. Like other farmers around the state and country in the wake of COVID-19, New York maple producers have abandoned traditional sales methods and adjusted to losing clients like restaurants and other bulk operations. This winter has the added twist of a much colder start to the year that has delayed tapping across the state.

Damian Hill, of Shaver Hill Maple  (Delaware County), says his family farm has lost August fair and weekend craft trade show business, as well as restaurant and bulk syrup orders for events like pancake breakfasts. Hill says the farm has been able to recoup some sales online and at Pakatakan Farmers Market in Halcottsville, NY.

“It’s not easy, but we’re okay,” Hill said.

Haskell Yancey of Yancey’s Sugarbush in Croughan, NY (Lewis County) said COVID restrictions have been a challenge, but that customers have come through with online orders.

“It’s certainly impacted sales. Our sales didn’t end up being too far off base and we did a lot of mail order stuff. Instead of people coming here to pick up syrup, we ended up shipping it out and they paid for the shipping,” Yancey said.

“We sell a lot of syrup right here at the boiling shed and we didn’t have the visitors and didn’t even know if we should encourage people to come at all,” Yancey said.

Maple Weekends, a beloved March tradition where the public is invited to farms around the state to learn about New York’s maple sugar making processes and traditions and to taste pure maple syrup, are cancelled again this year due to the pandemic. Sponsored by the New York State Maple Producers Association, the events have helped maple producers with yearly sales and in making face-to-face connections with potential customers.

Another adjustment for maple producers this year has been an exceptionally cold and snowy beginning to the new year. While this has delayed tapping around the state, it’s not neTony_VanGlad.jpgcessarily bad news for the industry.

“This is what winters used to be like before sap really rock and rolled after spring set in,” Van Glad said.

He explained, “When it’s extremely cold like this, sap stays frozen and the capillary action of the trees does not work because they’re not pumping sap up to the buds for nourishment.”

“What we need are days above 32 or 35 degrees for sap to flow properly, a west wind and freezing nights in the 20s.”

Due to their elevations in the Catskills and Adirondacks, Van Glad, Hill and Yancey said no that no tapping has started on their farms as of mid-February.

“We are even locally a late bush and we’re dealing with snow way up over your knees right now. In fact, we’re shoveling off the boiling roof shed roof again today,” Yancey said. He explained that recent heavy, wet snow made it difficult to take a tractor out to any area on his farm without a track already made.

 “My uncles always said that when it’s a long cold winter, the sap is sweeter. I don’t know that holds up or if that was just to make you feel better about cold weather,” Yancey said.

A fourth-generation maple producer, Yancey said of maple production, “It’s worse than bailing hay because bailing hay, you decide how much hay you’re going to mow and how much you’re going to put down. With sap, it’s going to run when it wants do and it doesn’t run when it doesn’t’ want to. Five degrees in temperature can make all the difference in the world.”

 

Caption 1: Horses come in handy at Yancey’s Sugar Bush when tractors can’t be trusted in wet snow. Below: Haskell Yancey tends to the fire heating the evaporator at his maple operation in Croghan, NY. 

Caption 2: Tony Van Glad drills tap holes at his farm in Stamford, NY.