State maple producers worry over the weather

Matt Martin
March 19, 2014

Maple syrup producers are holding Maple Weekends all across New York this time of year. But 2014 has been a challenging year for many of them. The frigid weather has put maple production in jeopardy this year.

Frank Bauerle runs a small maple farm on his property with his wife, Jo.

“This is just a two man shop, but one of them is a women,” jokes Bauerle.

Their shop is called Peaceful Pond Sugarin’; named for the small pond behind their house. Frank shows off his system for collecting the sap from the trees.

There is a network of tubing that connects all his maple trees like a plastic spider web spread out across his land.

“And this goes up about 200 yards up this hill. And then another 100 yards up that hill and then they come together and all go down in to the sugar shack,” says Bauerle.

The sugar shack is where the magic happens. There, Frank boils the sap and turns it into delicious maple syrup. Frank and his wife’s maple syrup has won first place at the Broome County fair for the past two years.

“So we make a good quality syrup,” boasts Bauerle. 

But he is worried this year he won’t be able to produce as much. Baurle says in this business the weather determines everything. 

The sap in the trees only runs when it’s around 40 degrees during the day and about 20 degrees at night. Frank says last year the weather was perfect.

“So everybody had kind of a record year last year. And this year with the way things are going it’s not going to be a record year,” says Bauerle.

The long cold weather has meant a late start for many maple producers in the state. The sap is flowing now, but the question remains: Will producers be able to get enough syrup before the season ends in a few weeks?

“A lot of people will say to me, ‘Well, what do you think its going to be like, Frank?’ And I’ll tell them, ‘Ask me in May when the season is all over’ because you can never predict it entirely,” says Bauerle. 

Helen Thomas with the New York Maple Producers Association agrees it’s too early to know for sure. But this year, it’s a concern.

“Yeah, we all have an eye on the weather and what climate change is going to do fifty years from now,” she says. 

Bauerle is only has 77 taps on his farm, a small producer in the world of maple syrup. He doesn’t ask those big questions about climate change. He says if the weather stays at the 40/20 balance the sap needs to run from now until the end of April.

“Then it could be a good year. But I don’t think that’s going to happen,” says Bauerle.