June 14, 2013
Banner year for maple syrup
574,000 gallons produced in state, while production jumped 70 percent across US
MARATHON — Randy Ensign and his family resumed making maple syrup in Marathon after a 10-year hiatus and they were thrilled with the results as they were part of the record-setting year nationwide in the industry.
U.S. syrup makers had a sweet year, producing 3.2 million gallons.
The Department of Agriculture reported Wednesday that 2013 production jumped 70 percent over 2012, boosted by ideal weather conditions that resulted in a long season and a high-quality product. The previous record of 2.8 million gallons was set in 2011.
Vermont, as usual, was the nation’s top producer, with more than 1.3 million gallons. New York was second with 574,000 gallons, and Maine sugarhouses produced 450,000 gallons.
Production for the Ensign family mirrored the national and state trends.
“This year we produced 278 gallons,” Ensign said Thursday.
That is significantly more syrup than produced in past years — up from about 190 gallons on average — specifically because it was the first time, in part because it was the first year that they had ever used a vacuum to extract the sap from maple trees.
Randy Ensign’s father, Arthur Ensign, began making syrup on his dairy farm in Marathon around 1946 but got out of the business 10 years ago.
Today, that same farm now houses a beef operation, but the old sugar bush is still there and this year, Randy and his children, Joshua, Nick and Carie, decided to try their hand at producing some maple syrup.
The syrup industry nationwide needed a good year because inventories were getting low after last year’s relatively modest production, said Jacques Couture, who with his wife owns Couture’s Maple Shop/B&B in Westfield, Vt.
“It was a terrific year,” he said. “We had the opposite of last year when we had everything go wrong with the weather. This year we had everything go right with the weather.”
Syrup production increased in all 10 states that are listed in the USDA’s production report. After Vermont, New York and Maine, the other states in order of production were Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Every year beginning in mid-February to mid-March, syrup producers collect sap from taps that are inserted into maple trees and boil it down in their sugarhouses.
The syrup industry has grown, with a steady increase in the number of taps in the past decade, said Gary Keough, of the National Agricultural Statistics Service office in Concord, N.H. This year, syrup makers used a record 10.5 million taps.
Keough thinks there’s still room for growth.
“Whenever you have an industry that keeps expanding, that’s usually a good sign they haven’t reached a point of diminishing returns yet,” he said.
The value of this year’s syrup won’t be released until next year, after the syrup is sold. But prices have been stable the past five years, and syrup makers said this year’s prices have been stable as well.
Couture, who is chairman of the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association, said the syrup market has been on the rise with new maple-flavored products and chefs using syrup in a growing number of recipes.
“Syrup isn’t just for pancakes anymore,” he said.
Staff Reporter Tyrone L. Heppard contributed to this article.
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