Surprisingly, 2013 at the Deakins sugar bush was a banner year for maple syrup production. In one run 180 two gallon buckets produced 324 gallons of sap with sugar content measuring 3.3%. In another run sugar content reached a hitherto unheard of 3.9% (2.4% being the average).
I say surprisingly because, according to some, this was supposed to be the year that wasn’t.
Last fall, in response to the summer drought, the agro forestry branch of Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) collected province-wide bud and twig samples to determine levels of stored starch in sugar maple trees. The amount of starch in maple trees in the fall is considered a predictor of sap production for the following spring. The shockingly low levels reported by OMAFRA to the locals of the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association (OMSPA) consequently prompted the following recommendations:
· tapping only trees with a minimum diameter of 30 centimeters (as opposed to the customary 25 centimeters
· limiting each tree to only one tap
· considering suspending tapping for the 2013 season
Experts explained that customary tapping practices may put Ontario’s maple trees at risk. Ordinarily, maple trees give up about 4% – 7% of their sap during maple syrup time. While trees may produce the same amount of sap as in years past, that amount, unlike in other years, may represent 25% of trees’ (especially young trees) total reserve. This fact along with the extensive winter damage of young trees by feeding deer and the uncharacteristically early fall drop of maple leaves is causing maple syrup farmers to hope and pray for good growing weather this spring to ensure the recovery of sugar maple stocks.
Having done my part by limiting my tapping practices this spring, I’m banking on nature’s resilience and praying that our banner year hasn’t come at a high cost. In the short term at least, our guests will continue to enjoy high quality syrup at breakfast and still be able to take home souvenir packages.