Updated 03/30/2012 10:13 PM
Maple season tapped out in Western Mass
It's been one strange season for maple syrup farmers in the Northeast. A warm winter, topped off by 70 to 80 degree temps a couple weeks ago, led to blooming maple trees weeks earlier than normal. YNN's Brandon Walker caught up with two farmers who say their season was short but sweet.
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BERKSHIRE COUNTY, Mass. -- As fast as it started, maple syrup season has ended.
"You can see the buds are already starting to grow on this one here," said Robert Leab, of Ioka Valley Farm, as he checked maple tree branches for buds.
“I guess I would say it was short and sweet,” joked Pete Phelps, of Sweetbrook Farm in Williamstown.
In all, Bay State production is about a half to two-thirds smaller than usual, according to the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association.
One reason, "The soil is quite dry for this time of year," explained Leab.
A lack of moister.
"Well, it was getting too warm at 80 degrees. The trees, the taps start to dry up and the trees say okay, no more.”
That’s because trees use their sugar for food. Once temps warm up, trees wake up, and the warmer it gets, we’ll get to that point where it doesn't boil as nice and the syrup starts to get really dark," Leab said.
Just up the road in Williamstown, same story.
"We made about 70 percent of what we made last year," said Pete Phelps of Sweetbrook Farm.
Still, Phelps produced a lot considering last year saw record production. This year, Phelps figured he’d work with Mother Nature.
"We set the taps about the first of February and were all done by the 15th of March."
Tapping one month before the season officially begins.
"If it wasn't for that, we would have had a real disastrous crop,” he said.
A good gauge to show that the season is a bit off is grabbing the soil. This time of year, it usually clumps up in your hand, it doesn't crumble up, as it's doing now.
"There’s the three M’s of March," explained Leab. "There’s mud, muck and maple."
The first two, neither farmer got.
Still, they say the maple they have is as good as normal. If only the same could be said about the weather.
"Every year is going to be a different year," explained Leab.