Time to Make Maple Syrup and Look for Insect Damage
On Tuesday Governor Maggie Hassan jump-started the New Hampshire maple season by drilling her ceremonial maple tree. After the long, hard winter the milder weather and dripping sap gave hope to all. This year the NH Maple Producers Association (NHMPA) held the event at the Sununu Youth Services Center in Manchester to show appreciation for the hard work of the teacher and students who produce maple syrup—and for the learning that results from this hands-on experience working with nature. The center is located at North River Road, on farmland once owned and farmed by Revolutionary War hero General John Stark—of “Live free or die” fame.
Students at the reform school operated by the NH Department of Health and Human Services tap the historic sugar maples at the site, and transform the sap they collect into pure maple syrup. Tim Sullivan, teacher at the Sununu Center, leads the popular program. Students have been tapping maples for 15 years, and built the sugarhouse with staff assistance. Sullivan says alumni often speak highly of their experience with the maple program, which was fully integrated into the educational curriculum three years ago. Two years ago the NHMPA selected a student in the program for its Walter Felker Award, given by the association to a young man or woman involved in sugarmaking to promote and encourage interest in the production and marketing of high quality maple products.
NHMPA chooses member producer sugarhouses for the Governor’s tapping event to showcase the diversity of member operations—size, production methods and technology, etc. “The NHMPA chose this location as it is unique in both the location and the reason for the program.” Publicist Robyn Pearl notes. “It exemplifies how the maple process teaches responsibility to self and to a team to create an end product as well as learning a centuries old craft.”
Look for sap buckets on the sugar maples around the State House after Speaker of the House Shawn Jasper and Senate President Chuck Morse drill the first taps on March 11. The statue of Gen. John Stark will be watching over the State House event, which is sure to spark some friendly competition between the two legislative leaders, both of whom have some agricultural knowledge and roots. Senate President Morse owns two garden centers in the southeastern part of the state, and Speaker Jasper is a former poultry farmer. Sap will be collected in buckets, adding some rural character to the state’s capitol.
Now is a great time, as the weather moderates but trees are still bare, to take a walk and look at trees for signs of emerald ash borer or Asian longhorned beetle. “This is the ideal time of year to look for emerald ash borer,” advises State Entomologist Piera Siegert. “Without leaves on the trees, it is easier to see blonding on ash trees—the tell-tale sign of EAB.” Blonding is the pattern of lighter colored inner bark showing where the outer bark has been stripped away by woodpeckers foraging for EAB. State surveyors are reporting that blonding has recently become much more obvious. Lack of leaves also makes it easier to see the round holes left when an ALB adult exits a tree.
Visit www.nhbugs.org for updated information about emerald ash borer or Asian longhorned beetle, including photos of signs to look for and a map showing the areas of the state where EAB has been found so far. An online form is available to report suspected invasive pests, and upload photos. All this snow cover will melt soon. Folks interested in invasive plants can visit www.nhinvasives.org
Lorraine Merrill, Commissioner
Department of Agriculture, Markets, & Food
(This column is excerpted from the Weekly Market Bulletin, March 11, 2015)
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