Maple season: a sweet success

ADDISON COUNTY — While Vermont’s heavy snows and chilly spring temperatures drove many local residents into a frenzy, maple sugarmakers across the state celebrated their sweetest year in almost a century.
Vermont took the maple cake once again, leading the nation in syrup production with a whopping 1.14 million gallons in 2011, which accounts for about 40 percent of the nation’s 2.79 million gallons, according to figures released this month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
This year’s production in Vermont is a 28 percent increase from 2010. It marks the first time since the 1940s that Vermont sugarmakers surpassed the 1-million-gallon mark.
According to Vice President of the Addison County Maple Sugarmakers Association Andy Hutchinson, it was more than just the conditions, but the number of taps and the new technology — like reverse osmosis that reduces the sap’s water content quicker and vacuum lines that suck sap directly from the tree — that yielded this year’s increased production.
“Probably the most influential (factor) would be increased taps. The second most influential would be the technology. The technology that we’re using today tends to not only increase production, but kind of levels it out from year to year,” he said.
Nonetheless, this season’s favorable temperatures kept the sap flowing in saccharine abundance.
Barb Rainville, a Lincoln resident and member of the Vermont Maple Foundation board of directors, recalled the Addison County sugar season fondly.
“A lot of folks who use wood were running out,” she said. “So they ended up taking their sap to other places to have it boil rather than just dumping good sap.”
When asked if she could remember a time when county sugarmakers were forced to borrow boilers to deal with such a surplus of sap, Rainville was unequivocal.
“Never,” she said. “I’ve never even heard of that happening.”
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected].

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