Record-Breaking Season for Maple Syrup Production in Massachusetts

The Daily Hampshire Gazette, June 16th, 2015, by Tom Relihan.

Though the maple sugaring season got off to a late start this year, Massachusetts sugarhouses had a record-breaking season.

Winton Pitcoff, the coordinator of the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association, said the successful season could be attributed to a variety of factors.

He said the weather likely had the biggest impact on most producers. For the sap to begin flowing through the trees, the conditions have to be just right for a thaw-freeze cycle to occur between night and day.

That cycle got started a bit late this year due to the frigid winter, but once it did, it lasted longer than normal, Pitcoff said. “We were getting a bit anxious, but it just gave us more time to get ready,” he added.

Pitcoff said new technology, such as vacuum pumps and reverse osmosis systems, have made the process easier and there have been a lot of new sugarhouses opening. This year, there were 310,000 taps in the trees, compared to 290,000 last year, he said.
“We had about a dozen new members this year,” he said.

The Associated Press reported that 75,000 gallons of syrup were produced statewide this year, a 23 percent increase over last year and the best year on record. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, maple syrup production was up 6 percent nationally this year. The increase in Massachusetts was the second highest overall.

Tom McCrumm, the owner of South Face Farm in Ashfield, said he had a good season, despite the slow start. He turned out about 500 gallons.

“For what I tapped, it turned out well,” McCrumm said. He said he put out fewer taps this year than in years past, but the sap ran a bit sweeter, which meant he had to boil it down less for the same amount of syrup.

He said having a year like that is entirely up to the whims of Mother Nature.

“They’ve been researching it for years,” he said. “It has to do with the amount of sunlight, or rain, the trees got the last growing season, or the year before that.”

McCrumm said the record-breaking year shows that the state’s maple industry is strong and expanding.

“That’s great to see for such tiny little state like this,” he said. “Most people I’ve talked to seemed to be pretty satisfied.”

Massachusetts ranks ninth in maple production. Vermont takes the top spot.