‘Weird’ is the word to describe 2017 maple sugaring season

MassLive, March 28, 2017, By Diane Lederman.

HADLEY — The word used most often to describe the 2017 maple sugaring season is “weird.”

For some, like the Boisverts, who own the North Hadley Sugar Shack, the season began in January — ahead of schedule — but then slowed a bit in March when cold overtook the region.

Still, Shelly Boisvert thinks the sugar shack will have a good season, a little above normal.

Jacqueline Durfresne, whose family owns the Durfresne Sugar House in Williamsburg, said the business did well in February, but she isn’t sure what the rest of the season will yield.

“It’s a very weird season,” she said. “There have been several warm spells with brief cold spells in between.”

Ideal conditions are below-freezing temperatures at night with temperatures warming into the 40s during the day so the sap will run and be collected. If temperatures stay around freezing, as they did for several March days, the sap won’t run.

Pete Sollis talks about maple syrup
And too many warm days confuses Mother Nature.

Dufresne said that every time the temperatures rise the “trees advance in development,” and that means that sap production could end. Still, she said, “there’s no telling (when this season) will end.”

Pete Solis, who oversees the Hampshire College maple sugaring operation, said the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association is advising producers to put off answering the question of how the season is going until it’s over.

But he too thinks the season will produce a little above average. Hampshire has about 150 trees around campus and sells or gives away the syrup to alumni. He said it takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup and the college produces about 25 gallons per year.

University of Massachusetts researcher Joshua Rapp, who studies the relationship between climate change and maple syrup, said, “It’s been a strange season.”

Rapp does research at Harvard Forest in Petersham. He began tapping in February, which is normal, but the cold March meant less sap. “March is the heart of the maple season,” he said.

Despite the weather, he too thinks the season is on target to be a little above average.

North Hadley Sugar Shack offers tastings and breakfast during the season. It has 1,500 trees around town and a pipeline to more trees in the hilltowns. It typically produces about 2,000 gallons of syrup a year. Boisvert hopes the season will last into mid-April.