EASTERN ONTARIO — Last year’s maple syrup production — down about 20 per cent across the province—left many disappointed. Not this year.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we have a record overall crop,” said Ontario Maple Syrup Producers’ Association executive director John Williams.
“For many people it’s at least a good season, and for a lot of people they’re having great seasons—above average or record in some cases.” “It was my best year in nine years,” said Tom Stehr, owner of Sugarbush Hill Maple Farm in Huntsville. “We got about 35 per cent more sap than last year.” The weather was great for making the sap run, said Stehr, with temperatures above freezing during the day and below freezing at night. The quality of it was “very high,” he said.
The sap’s sugar content was lower than last year’s— at 2.7 per cent compared to last year’s 3.5 per cent— but the large quantity compensated for it, said Stehr. He taps 3,200 trees on 50 acres. “The less sugar you get in your sap, the more sap you need to make the same one litre bottle of syrup. Boiling every day was physically and mentally very tiring,” said Stehr, who’s sugarbush wasn’t the only one to have a busy season.
“We finished the year with around two litres per tap, so it was better than usual,” said Mel Conboy, owner of Oso Sweet Maple Syrup in Sharbot Lake. He taps 1,600 trees on 75 acres. Conboy said his customer numbers increased slightly from last year and sales were up. “We were warned by our suppliers to get things early and we did. Otherwise, I think we would’ve had trouble if we waited,” said Conboy.
He purchased his bottles and labels in September of last year, instead of doing so in February as per usual. Clarence Fulton, owner of Clarence Fulton Pure Maple Products in Almonte, said he also ordered all the supplies he needed well in advance of the season, worried he’d run into trouble trying to purchase back- logged items later on.
With his 2,400 tapped trees, Fulton produced over 1,500 litres of syrup this year, about average for his operation. There is no vacuum on his lines, so not as much sap is pulled from the trees. There were large amounts of golden and amber syrup this season, and only some darker syrup near the end, said Fulton. “It was a really smooth season, busy and steady. Everything went well,” Fulton said.
With significantly higher input costs, Stehr, Conboy, and Fulton adjusted their prices and said customers were very understanding. Higher packaging costs, supply shortages and the high price of fuel were this season’s biggest challenges, Williams said.