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On the Bright Side

March 15, 2013

Local maple producers opening their doors

The sap is running — and so are the region’s maple syrup producers.

After a down year in 2012, they said they’re hoping that this season will provide a sweet recovery. So far, the weather is cooperating.

“If everybody hates the weather, then it’s probably good for us,” said Reed Baker of Baker’s Maple Products in Bainbridge. “Raw, blustery March weather generally is good for production.”

The ideal weather, Baker said, is a series of cold nights and warm days.

“We need it to freeze and thaw,” he said. “You have to have that shift — 25 (degrees) at night, 45 during the day.”

For Rick Newman of Breezie Maple Farms in Roseboom, the weather hasn’t quite reached a nominal point.

“It’s been an all-right season,” he said. But “it hasn’t gotten that warm that many days in a row.”

Newman and Baker are among the many maple producers in New York state who will be marking the season’s peak this weekend and next with open houses, showing visitors their sugar bushes — the trees from which they obtain sap — also sometimes called sap bushes or wood lots.

They’ll also be showing off their sugar shacks (also called sap houses) — where the sap is boiled down into syrup. It takes 20 to 50 gallons of sap to produce a gallon of syrup. It’s a delicate process: too thin, and it can spoil; too thick and it can crystallize.

Baker, who has been in business for 31 years, said that these days he hopes to get about a quart and a half of syrup from each tap, but that 20 years ago, his rule of thumb was 2 quarts.

“We don’t see the long, cold, slow springs like we used to,” he said.

Newman said he expects that each of his trees, some of which are less-productive “soft” maples, such as red and black maples, will yield an average of about a quart.

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