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Don't Give Up On Maple Season Yet

This weekend, sugarhouses around Vermont are welcoming visitors for their annual open house weekend. But it appears there won’t be much sap boiling. Frankly, Vermont sugarmakers are getting nervous.

The fact is, the temperatures are too cold and the snow keeps on falling. But don’t dismiss the season just yet. After all, experienced sugarmakers like Frank Cutler of Wolcott, say sugaring is a springtime tradition.

"Back when the Depression was over and World War II was on, and there was no sugar or nothing, we used to tap the trees... and my mother never let us tap before the first of spring," Cutler explained. "It seemed like that we made all the syrup that we could at that time." 

Cutler says tapping trees in February and boiling before Town Meeting didn’t happen in the old days.

"On the wall up there in the old sugarhouse, if you went up there you’d see that we had made more syrup in April than we ever did in March. We put it down, how much we made every day, and there was always probably three-quarters, two-thirds or three-quarters, of it was made in April. So hopefully that’s going to happen this year too," Cutler said with a laugh.

UVM Extension Maple Specialist George Cook says studies have shown the sugaring season has been coming earlier in the past 15 years or so.

"The research that’s been done at the UVM Proctor Research Center and others, (shows) seasons have started earlier; they’ve ended earlier and they’ve tended to be perhaps four or five days shorter than historically," said Cook.

He agrees this year seems to be a throwback to sugaring seasons of decades past.

"This really is more of a traditional winter and traditional season," said Cook. "I mean it’s been cold this winter! Folks haven’t seen a winter like this for quite a while."

As for predictions about this season, neither George Cook or Frank Cuter were willing to go out on that limb. As Culter says: "You can always tell a lot better at the end of April whether you’re going to have a good year or not."

Sugarhouses throughout Vermont are open for visitors Saturday and Sunday. To find one near you go online to Vermontmaple.org.