Heavy snow has made things difficult, but area maple producers remain confident as they head into their production season
“There’s a lot of snow down, that’s for sure, but we expect to begin boiling later this week,” Don Donkin said Tuesday. “The snow has made it hard to tap the trees, but we’re in pretty good shape. We’re ready to go, we just need Mother Nature to co-operate.”
Cumberland County has been pounded with heavy snow since late January. In fact, well over 150 cm of snow fell in February alone. That deep snow has translated into difficulties in maple producers being able to access their trees so they can install taps in preparation for production.
Donkin said the start of the season varies from year to year. He said there are years when production has begun in late February and there have been years when it started later.
“I’ve been at this for 25 years and of those years, I’d say 10 of them we started earlier than this and 10 of them we’ve started about the middle of March. There have been times, though, when it was later in March,” Donkin said.
If all goes well, Donkin is hoping to be open for the start of March Break this weekend.
Kevin McCormick runs a maple operation in Rodney, near Springhill. He said sugar camps at higher elevations, such as his, are experiencing greater difficulty tapping trees.
“In some cases it has been pretty extreme,” said McCormick, who is also the president of the Maple Producers Association of Nova Scotia. “As you know in Cumberland County there are different elevations and conditions on one area may be completely different than conditions in another area just 10 miles away.”
McCormick said some producers have told him there’s no possible way they’ll be able to tap all of their trees. The issue is not the amount of snow, he said, but the fact it continued to come through February.
“The standard for us is about four feet of elevation (off the ground) for the tubing, but in some places the snow is higher than that,” McCormick said. “It has been a big challenge for some. In some places there’s more than five feet of snow in the woods. Our input as far as tapping goes is near double, which is quite a bit when you only have five people working.”
McCormick, who has 29,500 taps, said he’s been in the woods seven days a week trying to clear snow for his lines. He expects all the taps to ready to go.
Producers are not panicking, McCormick said, since there is still plenty of time in the season and the sap really hasn’t started running yet. Ideally, producers need cold nights and mild days for the best sap production. That has given time for producers to clear snow from their trees.
“It’s good that it did hold off and if it warms up slowly we should be OK,” McCormick said.
If there is one plus, McCormick said, is the fact there hasn’t been much freezing rain. Ice storms in the past have damaged lines and the crowns of trees that produce the sap.
“There are much worse weather conditions to be in. Snow will go away, even if it does cause some problems, but ice storms and freezing rain are disastrous for us,” McCormick said.