Local maple syrup production flowing strong, despite mild winter

VICTOR, N.Y. – The east coast of the United States has been experiencing an unusually mild winter this season. That is not good news for maple syrup producers who need warm days that end in cold nights to yield a lot of sap. 

News10NBC’s Patrick Moussignac visited one local farm to find out how it’s faring so far.

Owner of Kettle Ridge Farm in Victor, Joe Hurley, says he expects to make more syrup this year than last year.

“Every year you go into it thinking this is going to be a terrible year because the weather is not going to be working out,” says Hurley. “But it usually ends up to be fine.”

About 10 miles of tap lines crisscross several acres at Kettle Ridge Farm. They collect sap from over 1,ooo trees. The sap travels a few hundred feet through the lines before being collected in 400 gallon tanks.

“What comes out of the trees looks a lot like water,” says Hurley. “Tastes like water. Has very little sugar content. So it’s when you boil that water away that you’re left with maple syrup.”

Hurley says he normally taps his trees in the beginning of February, but he started early because the weather, plenty of cold nights, has strengthened the sap supply.

“We started tapping in mid-January, and to date we’re really only half tapped. We’re waiting for the upcoming cold spell to tap the rest of the trees,” says Hurley.

The same can’t be said for other farms along the east coast that are south of Rochester. A national report found that one farm in Lebanon, Connecticut, which typically produces 60 gallons of maple syrup per year, expects to only come up with 20 gallons this season. Hurley explains what happens when the weather doesn’t cooperate.

“The tap holes begin to dry out as soon as you drill into the tree,” Hurley explains. “Warm days following cold night is what gets the sap to run inside the tree.”

That is why maple syrup farms further north do much better.

“Depending on where you are, the weather conditions can be much different from week to week, and so I wouldn’t say the warm weather has shut us down,” says Hurley.

Hurley says on a good day he can collect up to 1,500 gallons of sap. The majority gets burned away because of its high water content. What’s left over becomes syrup, and Hurley believes he will collect over 400 gallons before the season ends in April.

“This has been a great start to the season,” says Hurley. “Most sugar makers are very pleased with the weather so far, and we just have to wait to see what the next few weeks bring.” 

Most of what he produces is sold at the retail store on the farm, but shoppers can click here to visit the farm’s website.