Maple sugaring season comes to a close

04/15/08 7:34AM By Ross Sneyd
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(Host) Vermont's maple sugarmakers say they're having a good year.

The quality of the syrup is high this year and production appears to be solid.

VPR's Ross Sneyd has more on the sugar season that is coming to an end.

(Sound of sap dripping)

(Sneyd) The drip of sap into the bucket is slowing almost to nothing at Craig Line's Calais sugarbush.

(Line) "The quality's been very good. The syrup I've made is great stuff. But quantity is definitely down for me. The sugarmkaers that are on vacuum are doing better, as they always do, because they're sucking it out of the tree and through the lines and I'm must relying on gravity.''

(Sneyd) At a lot of sugaring operations around the state, the drip has stopped altogether.

In Windham and Bennington counties, most sugarhouses have closed for the season. For others in the Northeast Kingdom and in higher elevations around the mountains, the sap is still running.

(Stevens) "It all depends. If it freezes at night, they can still keep going.''

(Sneyd) Catherine Stevens is the marketing director for the roughly 2,000-member Vermont Sugarmakers Association.

(Stevens) "We're hoping that this year will be better than last year. And certainly the early predictions are that it will be.''

(Sneyd) A New England agricultural survey estimated 460,000 gallons were made in Vermont last year.

There's been a wide range of production this year. Some sugarbushes are reporting slightly less sap - but they say the quality has been high.

All over the state, the sugar content appears to be higher than recent years. That makes for sweeter, more flavorful syrup.

(Sound of hot syrup pouring into bucket)

(Sneyd) Brian Stowe was boiling sap into syrup at the University of Vermont's Proctor Maple Research Center in Underhill.

(Stowe) "One side of a hill can have a very good season and a neighbor can have a mediocre or poor season. So kind of a mixed bag. Some of the southern states have done well. And it sounds like most of southern Vermont has done well. Once you get beyond a certain point north it starts to get a little spotty. It was actually too cold early on in the season for the sap to flow well.''

(Sneyd) Stowe figures that point is right around Rutland and Woodstock. North of there, many sugarhouses are still boiling. If the weather forecast holds, this may be the end of the season, because temperatures are expected to creep into the 60s. Some higher elevations may not get so warm, so the sap might continue to flow there if it gets cold enough at night.

(Stowe) "But I wouldn't worry. There's going to be syrup to be had. Definitely go and check out your local producer and buy syrup.''

(Sneyd) But you might plan to spend more. Higher prices for fuel, stainless steel, even plastic tubing are forcing producers to raise their prices by 15 to 20 percent. The Sugarmakers Association says prices range from 37 to 45 dollars a gallon, sometimes higher.

For VPR News, I'm Ross Sneyd.

VPR Photos/Ross Sneyd: Craig Line's sugarhouse in Calais, and Brian Stowe at UVM's Proctor Maple Research Center in Underhill. 

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