By Connor Lynch
LAMBTON SHORES — The sap is not so sweet but Western and Eastern Ontario producers are pleased with their syrup haul this year.
On the western edge of Lambton County, the Vandenburgs, who run Ryan’s Sweet Maple, are boiling with excitement.
“It’s absolutely going to be a record year,” Bill Vandenburg said.
It started inauspiciously. The first boil on Feb. 18 was nothing special, he said, except that it went on for 10 days. A cold snap kept them away from syrup-making for most of March, but by the last week of the month, they were back to boiling and the season kept strong right through into April. Vandenburg wasn’t expecting the season to end until mid-April, and he’d already matched his old production record as of April 3.
Head east to Parkhill and producer Nelson McLachlan was wrapping up his season as of April 4. It hasn’t been so stellar a year for McLachlan, but production is right on the farm’s five-year average and quality is good. Sugar content was down. Typically in sap it hovers around 2.2 per cent, but this year it was between 1.3 per cent to 1.7 per cent, McLachlan said.
East of London, Bob Jakeman at Beachville was looking forward to another two weeks of boiling as of April 3. An early run at the start of February saw the producers at Jakeman’s Maple Farm get much of their crop in and, by early April, Jakeman already had a normal year’s crop. “Most of southern Ontario is sitting with a full crop right now,” Jakeman said. “I think we have a good chance of making another 20 to 50 per cent more this season.”
East of Toronto, the season is shaping up quite well for Lanark County producer Vernon Wheeler, who has over 30,000 taps in the McDonalds Corners area. An early run at the end of February saw the Wheelers pull an all-nighter as sap ran steadily for almost five days. But by the end of it, they’d produced 3,000 gallons of syrup, nearly half of their average total production.
As of March 27, the producers had boiled 5,000 gallons of syrup, most of the almost 8,000 they expected to produce, said Wheeler. He expected the season to be mostly wrapped up by the second week in April, although he said they always invite a mid-April snowstorm to squeeze out a little bit more season.
“No matter what happens now, we’ll have a good year in this area,” he said.
Brockville-area producer Bill Gibbons hadn’t had as promising a start to the season, but he said a late February run meant he had a decent year. His season started in late February and was mostly over by early March, though Gibbons said he had a couple more days at least of at least some sap running as of March 27.
The freezing weather at night meant they didn’t have to pull any all-nighters, and they ended up with about 1,200 gallons of production, close to the 0.26 gallons per tap benchmark producers use. One downside was lower sugar content in the sap meant it took more time and wood to boil down to syrup.
Producers south of Highway 7 have been having an excellent year, said past-president of the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association, Ray Bonenberg. Sap is running more slowly north of it, since temperatures there are cooler, but he added that it’s still early in the season. This year got started earlier than normal, just like the past three years, but the early run lasted longer than usual and sugar percentage seeme to be down.