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How's the maple flowing so far this season?

Blue pipes are strung around the trunk of a tree.
Howard Weiss-Tisman
Vermont Public
Plastic tubes strung in a sugarbush in Westminster.

New England winters are getting warmer—it’s undeniable, especially after this winter. Yet, Vermont’s maple industry soldiers on.

Mark Isselhardt, a maple specialist and program leader at UVM Extension, says it's too early to know how this year's maple syrup yield will compare to other years, but so far it seems like producers are on track to reach average levels. But, he said, maple syrup producers across the region are reporting inconsistent conditions and yields—some comparatively more, some less.

"There's an old saying that if you've seen one sugaring season [then] you've seen one sugaring season, and I think this is a great example of that," he said.

The really large operations, with tens of thousands of taps, are limited by how many workers they can find to tap their trees. They got started early, in December, and benefited from the temperatures we had that month.

"We had many sugar makers tapping very early in response to a lot of factors, one being warm weather, a warmer winter than we expected," he said.

Producers who rely on gravity sap collection are beholden to the freeze-thaw cycle, but those who use tubing and vacuum technology will continue to collect for days, even if there hasn't been a freeze, he said.

Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association is celebrating this year's Maple Open House weekend on March 23-24, with more than 90 locations opening their doors to the public for maple tastings and other events.

Broadcast at noon Wednesday, March 13, 2024; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.
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Mikaela Lefrak is the host and senior producer of Vermont Edition. Her stories have aired nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Marketplace, The World and Here & Now. A seasoned local reporter, Mikaela has won two regional Edward R. Murrow awards and a Public Media Journalists Association award for her work.
Tedra joined Vermont Public as a producer for Vermont Edition in January 2022 and now serves as the Managing Editor and Senior Producer. Before moving to Vermont, she was a journalist in New York City for 20 years. She has a master’s degree in journalism from New York University.