A good maple harvest comes with the return of the Vermont Maple Festival | News


FRANKLIN COUNTY — Why didn’t the maple trees produce so much sugar last year? Jason Gagne has a theory.

“Trees got COVID,” he joked. Most.

“The University of Vermont has no idea. They gave me about five different reasons. … There’s still a lot we don’t know about the science of trees and maple,” said Gagné, Franklin County director of the Vermont Maple Sugar Manufacturers Association.

Whatever the reason, the maples seemed to be doing better this year. After two less than stellar years for sugar bowls, many have harvested and slightly more just in time for the return of the Vermont Maple Festival.

And for the entire community, this is good economic news.

For those who don’t already know, Vermont – with 1.5 million gallons of maple syrup produced in 2021 – is the nation’s largest producer of maple harvest, and Franklin County is well over the rest of the counties in the state.

So when maple syrup producers are successful, the success tends to spill over to the rest of the county.

“All those dollars go back into the economy. This should help the state of Vermont’s economy rebound after a difficult year,” said Cécile Branon, co-owner of Branon Family Maple Orchards.

Branon described the past two years as tough for maple syrup producers. In 2020, the price of maple fell significantly, which reduced the bottom line for sugar bowls. And last year, Vermont maples didn’t seem motivated to produce enough sugar.

Comparing production numbers from 2020 to 2021, for example, the state saw a 21% reduction in maple syrup production as 2020’s 1.95 million gallons fell to 1.54 million. in 2021, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Branon explained that this year has been different. Producers achieve their goals.

“This year, [the trees] product as usual. The sugar content was normal,” Gagné said. “I think the producers overall are going to be happy. Unless you have just received your fuel bill.

Stephen Tetreault, owner of the Tator sugar shack, agreed.

“We had a good season,” he said. “It’s coming to an end. There are still a few [sugar] in the colder and higher altitudes. We have some cold woods in Cold Hollow. They always go from what I heard. Those of Fairfield, we have warmer wood. We are on cleaning duty now.

That doesn’t mean the industry is entirely without its problems. Like much of the economy, supply issues and labor issues affect production.

The jugs, in particular, were hard to come by. Gagne expects the scarcity of oil to put pressure on prices for tubing and other plastic products, which will hurt maple syrup producers looking to potentially expand their vacuum systems.

When it comes to labor issues, the trick is getting someone to snowshoe through the woods in the heart of Vermont’s cold winter, Gagné said.

“It’s usually the younger helper who doesn’t come back on Mondays,” Gagné said. “It’s hard work, and I can’t blame them.”

For this reason, he expects labor issues to primarily affect large producers. Small family farms have the advantage of being able to mobilize enough workers to finish what is needed.

“Sugar has always been made by families,” Gagné said. “They can come together and help. … All the aunts and uncles can go out and pick up the buickets, boil them. It has always been like this.

And with the return of the Vermont Maple Festival this year, it just gives those same families another chance to come together and relax after two tumultuous years.

“It’s the end of the season. It’s a little chance to catch your breath and relax a bit,” Gagné said. “With the maple syrup producers, it’s over. They pull the beak when the festival comes to town.

Attendees can expect to see many of the same maple families manning booths and making sure everything runs smoothly when the festival returns to St. Albans.

“Many of us involved are business owners, and many of us are sugar bowlers. We juggle work, family, sugar and you know, we have a festival,” Tetreault said.


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