All that warm weather you’ve been enjoying the past couple weeks may turn out to affect your access to maple syrup this summer. Which is not so hot. Across the Midwest and the Northeast, all those consecutive days of spring-like weather is threatening to cut short this year’s maple syrup harvest.
So here’s the gist of it: Maple syrup production is reportedly down 50 percent.
In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, in Somerset County, Pennsylvania’s top syrup-producing county, syrup farmers are reporting having only extracted about 50 percent of what they had produced last year at this time.
Although warm weather can be a boon for harvesting maple sap, the warm days must be accompanied by freezing cold nights. The WSJ specifies that, “Sap flows best from trees when freezing nights are followed by days in the 40s and 50s.”
If the weather is unseasonably warm overnight, however, instead of the sap being tapped, it will rise through the tree and become unpalatable.
A retired botany professor turned maple syrup farmer, Eric Randall, puts the drastic recent changes in weather into perspective in the WSJ. “My grandparents wouldn’t even go to the woods until the first of March. If you do that this year, you may have missed your entire crop,” Mr. Randall tapped his first tree at the end of January this year.
Your Wallet Isn’t Being Tapped, Yet.
Despite the mounting difficulty for farmers to meet America’s demand for maple syrup, the prices have held steady. We can thank Canada for that. Our neighbor to the north dwarfs the production of maple syrup stateside, even on a good year.
The WSJ sites that, “In 2015, the U.S. imported more than 5 million gallons of maple syrup from Canada, while harvesting 3.4 million gallons, more than double the amount it produced a decade earlier.”
It remains to be seen whether Canada’s production holds steady.
Other Crops Are Feeling the Heat
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Maple trees aren’t the only crop that 2017’s unusually warm weather is confusing. Peach trees in Kentucky and blueberries in Michigan have also had their crops jump-started into full bloom. While that means you may have fresh fruit earlier than anticipated, it also means that an unexpected freeze could damage the quantity and quality of yields.
So cross your fingers that the weather cooperates this spring. If it doesn’t, we may all have to reimagine a world where maple syrup shortages are a common occurrence.