PAKENHAM — Maple syrup season in East-Central Ontario started off with a bang this year, but it wasn’t to last.
Georgina Maple Syrup Shed at Ravenshoe, north of Toronto, had a busy start to the season, like many producers. Early-March runs of warm days and cold nights got the syrup racing. Boiling through the night to keep up, the fire running the boiler got out of control. The trailer caught fire and nearby propane tanks exploded, though police said that nobody was injured.
Eastern Ontario maple syrup producer Scott Deugo, who runs Fulton’s Pancake House & Sugar Bush at Pakenham, said his season started similarly aggressively, if not as explosively.
Warm days and cold nights had the sap running well, he said, and as of March 24 they were on track for at least an average season, production-wise. Sales were a different story.
Shirley Fulton, who runs the retail side of the business, said that the coronavirus related shutdowns have been tough. The business can get as many as 1,500 people on site at a time, and retail sales are their bread and butter. They’ve started a drive-thru program where people can order ahead and prepay and just swing by to pick up their syrup, which has helped.
Central Ontario producer and executive director of the syrup producers’ association John Williams said it’s a similar story across East-Central Ontario. A survey by the association said producers expect to lose about 30 per cent of their income for this season from all the shutdowns. The organization cancelled its Maple Weekend whcih, alongside another local even in his area, accounts for about 20 per cent of Williams total sales in the year. “For folks relying on pancake houses, (coronavirus has) really hit hard.”
Get the full story in the April edition of the Farmers Forum newspaper.