BAINBRIDGE – Reed Baker has plenty of descriptives to refer to this year’s lackluster maple season; none of them, however, are fit to print.
“It was less than half a crop,” said Baker, owner and operator of Baker’s Maple, the largest of Chenango County’s roughly 40 maple producers.
This year, he processed 38,235 gallons of sap at his Bainbridge location, he said, and yielded less than 900 gallons of syrup.
“Ordinarily we ought to be able to make closer to 2,000,” he reported.
Last year, for example, he and his staff produced more than twice as much syrup as they did this year from the 83,000 gallons of sap they collected. Those numbers were higher still in 2008, when they boiled down 95,395 gallons of sap to produce 2,400 gallons of maple syrup.
It was without a doubt, “one of the poorer years for production,” said Baker, who has been in the business since 1982.
The problem? Unseasonably warm weather and dryer than average soils, according to the local maple expert.
“It looked good there the first week of March,” he reported, explaining that the season started out “normal,” with sap beginning to run toward the end of that first week of the month. Daytime temperatures weren’t climbing high enough for optimal production through the end of that week, he said, but that changed by week two. At that point, conditions were prime, according to Baker, with nighttime temperatures dropping below freezing and then heating up during the day. That pattern of freezing and thawing creates a kind of vacuum which keeps the sap flowing.