ITHACA, N.Y. — Maple sugaring season is in full swing across New York. Aaron Wightman, co-director of the Cornell Maple Program and a New York state maple specialist, weighs in on the current season, how climate change is impacting sap flow and how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the maple industry.
“The traditional beginning to the sugaring season started slow this year. Many producers were unable to make syrup in February given the colder temperatures, which is somewhat unusual. Temperatures have finally warmed up, sap is now flowing throughout New York and maple producers are ready with the latest technology to make a delicious crop of maple syrup.
“Maple syrup production has been increasing nationwide and in New York state for the past 15 years. However, climate change has made the maple syrup season highly variable. Maple producers have had to adapt, using new technologies that allow tap holes to be open longer, so trees produce sap for a longer period of time. For example, with warmer temperatures this winter, producers who tapped in December were able to produce a lot of syrup.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had interesting impacts on the maple industry. When it began, it was right near the time of year when New York maple producers were thinking about Maple Weekends, so there was some panic initially that profits may decrease. But as it turns out, sales have actually increased for most maple producers given more people are eating at home and trying new recipes.
“Another interesting side-effect of the pandemic is that we’ve seen more people interested in doing backyard sugaring. There’s even been collaboration between neighbors to tap backyard maple trees and make a little syrup for themselves.”
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