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Modern tap system boosts maple syrup profit margin

It goes without saying that everything in farming depends on the weather, but few things are as touchy as enticing maple trees to run sap. Some years it’s stop and go. Some years you can’t stay on top of it all, and some seasons don’t amount to much of anything.

It’s all a matter of degrees (literally) and there’s no second chances. Yields will vary from bush to bush and regions to region. The good news is that after a winter that wasn’t, we still had a pretty darn decent season in Ontario.

Down in the banana belt of Middlesex County, Nelson McLachlan, of the Fort Rose Maple Company, reports a season on track with their five-year average. With over 14,000 taps in 10 different woodlots, they made 1.5 litres per tap with a short season that came and went early: their first boil was January 28 and ended just as abruptly after excessively warm temperatures on March 5.

“We used to go by the calendar, but now we go by the weather forecast,” McLachlan said.

Ezra Martin makes syrup the old-fashioned way in Waterloo County, with 1,500 taps on buckets outside of Wallenstein. Their season went much longer. Starting in early February, their spiles yielded until the first week of April. They had excellent sugar content in their sap and managed to make 1.2 litres of syrup per tap. Their collection pails were exceptionally sticky by the end of the harvest.

John Tomory and his brothers manage 40,000 taps between locations in Uxbridge, as well as a new site much further north in Haliburton. They got rolling in Durham around the same time as the McLachlan’s did, but did not get under way until well into February at their northern operation. The seasons ended within days of each other in early April at both locales. The northern site proved stronger this year: 1.8 litres per tap.

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