Visit a Sugar House During Maple Month
NH Maple Producers are hosting Maple Sugaring Month from March 11 through April 2 at sugar houses across the state. The highlight is the 21st Annual Maple Weekend March 25-26. Maple Month and Maple Weekend offer lots of opportunities to see sugarmakers perform alchemy–transforming clear maple sap into sweet, golden maple syrup. Visit the NH Maple Producers website www.nhmapleproducers.com/directory/categories/maple-month-2017
to get the details on open sugarhouses and schedules of tours, sampling, and family-friendly activities.
Every maple season is different, and maple producers can experience very different conditions at different locales around the state. Snow depths can vary drastically, with some producers struggling to get through the woods, while others have bare ground. Temperatures can swing wildly, as they have this year.
Former Commissioner Steve Taylor, who helps out with his sons’ Taylor Brothers Sugar House operations in Meriden, reports that they and neighboring producers have made about 35% of typical annual production thus far. Temperature ups and downs have been pretty dramatic this year, but it’s not uncommon to have a season that starts and stops and starts again, he says.
In our neck of the woods—the Seacoast–this season has also been marked by many days of strong winds and powerful gusts. Smaller-scale operators in the suburbanized southeastern part of the state still make extensive use of low-tech sap collection systems. Windy conditions have made gathering sap even more challenging, with buckets and lids blowing off trees and tumbling across the fields.
Steve Taylor sent a maple news story from CBC-Radio on discord among maple producers in Quebec, the dominant force in world maple production. Producers there want to ramp up output to fend off rising competition from the U.S. and neighbouring provinces. The Quebec Maple Syrup Federation (QMPSF) operates something like a maple cartel, with a strictly enforced quota system to balance supply with demand and maintain set prices for farmers. The federation also enforces restrictions on where farmers can sell their maple syrup and pther products–levying fines up to hundreds of thousands of dollars on those who buck the system. One Quebec producer has appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The QMPSF is adding five million taps over the next two years to its existing 43 million allotted taps, in an attempt to satisfy growing demand for maple, as a natural sweetener and flavor ingredient in food products. Quebec produced more than 90 percent of all maple syrup made in Canada last year, but because the quota system has restrained growth, the province is losing market share.
Despite a 30 percent gain in production over the last decade, Quebec’s share of global maple output has shrunk from a high of about 82 percent in 2003 to just under 71 percent in 2016. Growth in states like Vermont and New York, and other provinces–unconstrained by QMPSF quotas, prices, or restrictions—has outpaced Quebec’s growth. Tony VanGlad, president of the New York State Maple Producers Association, says New York production has grown five to 10 percent a year in recent years. “The bigger guys that we have just keep getting bigger,” he was quoted.
The Harvest New England Marketing Conference, a biennial event held in Sturbridge, Mass., last week featured several New Hampshire participants. Speakers included John Moulton of Moulton Farm in Meredith, Carole Soule of Miles Smith Farm in Loudon, and Elodie Reed, the Concord Monitor reporter who just received the Fred Beane Award at the 2017 Farm & Forest Expo, who spoke on media strategies for farmers. A tour of innovative and diversified farm marketing enterprises included a stop in Amherst, NH at LaBelle Winery.
Lorraine Merrill, Commissioner
Department of Agriculture, Markets, & Food
(This column is excerpted from the Department’s Weekly Market Bulletin, March 15, 2017)
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