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Waiting for that sweet spot

Later syrup season like old times

  • Ed Johnson and his wife Carol getready to tap the maples in front of their Leyden home.  Recorder/Paul Franz

    Ed Johnson and his wife Carol getready to tap the maples in front of their Leyden home. Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »

  • Ed Johnson of South County Road in Leyden is getting his sugaring equipment ready for the maple season.  <br/>Recorder/Paul Franz

    Ed Johnson of South County Road in Leyden is getting his sugaring equipment ready for the maple season.
    Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »

  • Ed Johnsonof Leyden uncovers his evaporator gettiong ready for the suagar season. Recorder/Paul Franz

    Ed Johnsonof Leyden uncovers his evaporator gettiong ready for the suagar season. Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »

  • Ed Johnson and his wife Carol getready to tap the maples in front of their Leyden home.  Recorder/Paul Franz
  • Ed Johnson of South County Road in Leyden is getting his sugaring equipment ready for the maple season.  <br/>Recorder/Paul Franz
  • Ed Johnsonof Leyden uncovers his evaporator gettiong ready for the suagar season. Recorder/Paul Franz

With this winter’s frosty cold temperatures and frequent heavy snowfalls, Franklin County maple syrup farmers are experiencing their first real New England sugaring season in years, farmers say.

For the past few winters, temperatures have been mild and farmers turned to their taps in late February. This was actually the anomaly.

Traditionally, the six-week maple sugaring season starts in March and lasts to April, farmers say.

This year, the season is reminiscent of the past. The maple sugaring season has not started yet. And many farmers are planning to tap their maple trees this weekend.

“This is how it is supposed to be,” said Scott Purinton of Chickley Alp Farm in Hawley. “In a real New England winter, you tap around March 8 and tap until April 12.”

Purinton is planning to start his 1,000 taps this weekend, which on average produce 250 gallons of maple syrup.

“The sap is still frozen in the trees. Most maple producers have their taps in and are waiting for it to thaw,” said Winton Pitcoff, coordinator for the Massachusetts Maple Producer Association.

Pitcoff said there is no such thing as a typical sugaring season.

“It’s very weather dependent. It’s a delicate balance. It can’t be too cold or too warm. You’re waiting for that sweet spot,” Pitcoff said.

The ideal conditions for sugaring is warmer temperatures in the day. When day temperatures reach the low 40s and evening temperatures hit low 20s, taps will start to run.

At Ed’s Sugar Shack in Leyden, Edward Johnson hasn’t started tapping his trees yet either. He also plans to head out this weekend to start the season that brings in 180 gallons of syrup for his small family operation.

Tapping the first weekend in March is typical for Johnson, who likes to make sure the weather stays warm enough before he starts and chances a fickle New England winter, his wife, Carol Johnson said.

“We haven’t had a drop of sap yet,” said Michael Quinn of Quinn’s Sugarhouse in Northfield. “If you look at history, yes this is normal.”

The past few years have been warmer than normal, Quinn said, resulting in an earlier season. His farm brings in 200 gallons of syrup on average from 1,000 taps.

“This is more reminiscent of the old times,” Quinn said.

Unlike many of their counterparts, Williams Farm Sugarhouse in Deerfield did boil some syrup two weekends ago. The Williams Farm has about 2,000 of its 5,000 taps out right now. Chip Williams said the family farm is working on getting the remaining taps out especially if Thursday warms up.

“It hasn’t really started yet, but there’s no reason why it can’t be a good season,” Williams said. “We’re not too worried right now.”

So far, Williams has made 10 gallons of syrup already. The farm typically produces 2,000 to 2,500 gallons of syrup each season.

The sugarhouse restaurant on Routes 5 and 10 also opened. It will be open Fridays 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. until April 5. The restaurant season could last longer, however, depending on how the sugaring season goes, Williams said.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: kmckiernan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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