“I would hope that I’m going to produce over 4,000 gallons” of syrup this year, he said.
That would be an improvement on last year, when an unusually warm March severely depressed output locally and throughout New York and New England. U.S. production was down 32 percent from 2011, according to U.S. Agriculture Department figures, and New York — usually a distant second to Vermont in U.S. syrup production — fell into a tie with Maine for No. 2 on the U.S. list with 360,000 gallons. New York produced 564,000 gallons the year before.
Canada, especially Quebec, is the real heavyweight, accounting for 85 percent of global production. The United States accounts for the remaining 15 percent.
“What happened (last year) is that it got so warm so quick,” Newman said.
Baker explained that the warm weather caused the trees to bud early, which, in turn, caused the trees to start producing amino acids that promote leaf growth but turn the sap bitter.
“You can make all the syrup you want, but nobody can stand it,” he said.
As if the vagaries of late winter and early spring weren’t enough, Newman said the summer that precedes a harvest — when the trees’ leaves produce sugar for the sap that’s tapped in late winter — also affects sap quantities and sugar content.
He uses a vacuum system and hoses to collect sap from his trees.
“With the vacuum, you get about three times the amount of sap you normally get without vacuum,” he said.
Baker, on the other hand, taps trees in and around the town of Bainbridge.
“We have a bunch houses in the middle of one of our sap bushes,” he said. “We lease, rent trees all up and down the valley, wherever there’s a little string of trees, and we drive around with a truck to pick up the sap.”