March 3, 2009

Contacts: NNY Maple Specialist/Uihlein Maple Forest Director Michael Farrell, 518-523-9337
Producers: Steven Rider, Sugarwood Hill Maple of Worth, NY, 315-771-7187
Jennifer Parker, Parker’s Maple, West Chazy, 518-420-4498
Perry Babcock, Alex Barrett, Northwood School, Lake Placid, 518-524-3358
Steve Vandermark, Cornell Cooperative Ext. of St. Lawrence County, 315-379-9586
Kevin O’Neill, Howard G. Sackett Tech. Education Center, Glenfield, 315-778-8076
Rolland Thomas, Alder Brook Maple, Dickinson, 518-529-7181

NNY Agricultural Development Info Online for Maple Producers; Industry Could Grow to $9 Million

Maple is a strong agricultural sector for New York’s six northernmost counties (Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Clinton, Essex, and Franklin). To help the region’s 347 producers make, market, and sell their maple syrup, sugarcakes and other value-added confections, the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program has added results of an early tapping research project, a study of the growth potential of the NNY maple industry, and a series of Cornell Maple Bulletins to its website at www.nnyagdev.org.

Northern New York Maple Specialist and Uihlein Maple Forest Director Michael Farrell has recently completed a study measuring Northern New York’s potential to grow its maple industry. Farrell says, “Northern New York has a vast resource of maple trees that could be tapped to fill growing markets’ demand for pure maple syrup. We currently tap only one in 200 trees whereas our neighbors in Vermont tap about one in every 50. Over time, if we were to tap the same percentage of trees in New York as they do in Vermont, we could grow the Northern New York maple industry to more than $9 million annually. This figure is based on a price of $3 per pound for bulk syrup, which is a very conservative estimate. If we figure in retail syrup sales, value-added confections, and agritourism events such as Maple Weekend, the economic impact would be much greater.”

According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, the Northern New York region currently has 347 farms producing 84,177 gallons of maple syrup from 502,684 taps.

The farmer-led Northern New York Agricultural Development Program has funded research to help producers increase sap yields and improve the health of their sugar maple forests. The first-year report for the Northern New York maple early tapping project that is testing opportunities for producers to adapt to climate warming trends is now online at www.nnyagdev.org. Cornell University Maple Program Director Brian F. Chabot says, “Climate projection models suggest that the sap season with the freeze-thaw conditions needed to make sap run will continue to advance earlier in the year.”

Farrell says, “The decision on when to tap is critical. If one taps too early, tapholes dry up prematurely causing producers to miss the later season sap run. However, in years when warmer temperatures arrive earlier, delaying tapping to late February/early March could result in producers missing the opportunity to gain yield and income.”

Cornell researchers and NNY maple producers are tapping trees at several intervals at Uihlein Maple Forest near Lake Placid and at privately-owned sugarbushes in late fall and early winter to record sap flow, volume and sugar concentration. The early conclusions based on one year’s worth of early taps made in 2008 are now online at www.nnyagdev.org. Farrell says, “One year of data is not sufficient to make strong recommendations. We will be continuing this project for several years to develop better guidelines on when to start tapping.”

When pressed, he says, “Maple producers are always eager to learn and try new things. For those interested in early tapping at low elevations and in New York’s warmer climate areas, we suggest tapping in January as soon as long-range forecast indicates there will be at least two to three days of sap flow. This could potentially increase overall yield. However, every year is different. We did not have a January thaw in 2009 and there was no sap flow in February.”

Farrell notes, “Even though there may be some sap flow in January and February in the colder and higher elevation areas of New York, it may make sense to wait until late February or March to start tapping to ensure that tapholes will be as fresh as possible for the major sap run in April.”

Chabot and Farrell say results from research in future years will depend on weather patterns to provide additional sufficient data to support early tapping recommendations. In the meantime, producers will find Cornell Maple Bulletins and resources for making maple syrup and value-added confections on the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program website at www.nnyagdev.org. #