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Sugarhouses Open for Maple Sunday Despite Cold

Jennifer Mitchell
A Steamy Business: Bob Moore of Bob's Sugarhouse in Dover-Foxcroft checks the syrup in his evaporator.

 DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine _More than 100 sugar houses in Maine are open for the state's unofficial start of spring: Maine Maple Sunday. But the trees are only grudgingly giving up their gold.
"The low down is that there's no sap flow," says Bob Moore of Bob's Sugarhouse in Dover-Foxcroft, who taps 6000 trees in Maine's Central Highlands. "Been too cold. I've got probably 300 or 400 gallons of sap and that was two weeks in coming. I don't know anyone who's making much syrup at the moment, especially the bigger producers like me with the larger machines. It takes more to get them operating and we just haven't had it."
Moore who is 76 and has been making syrup since he was 10 years old, says the last two winters are just like the ones he remembers when he was a kid. He jokes, "maybe we've gone soft." 

In northern Maine, it's a similar story.
"The weather is a little cool for the sap to be running today," says Kevin Brannen who taps 3000 trees at Springbreak Maple & Honey in Smyrna.
Producers farther down the state are perhaps more likely to notice the lack of flow says Brannen; at his location in Aroostook County, Maple Sunday often comes before the trees are ready. "So we adjust to that. We try to have lots of activities for people to come and enjoy. We normally run the evaporator and explain the process."
Brannen says he doesn't expect a lack of sap to have a great effect on Maple Sunday. "We focus on education, showing families how maple syrup is produced. It's a family day."
Maine Maple Sunday is always the fourth Sunday in March. Ideal conditions call for nights in the teens and 20's with daytime highs in the upper 30's to about 45 degrees, with little to no wind, says Brannen. But as with last year, temperatures in Maine have thus far remained both wintry and windy. While Brannen has come to expect such conditions even in late March, to the south, the conditions are more of a bummer for producers in Massachusetts, which is also holding its open sugar house events this weekend.
" The sap flow is very slow," laughs Ernie Arcoite of K.E. Farm in Sturbridge, MA. "Plenty of freeze but no warm days." Arcoite says he got a few visitors on Saturday for the first day of his state's maple weekend, and expects to get a few more on Sunday. But the weather is unusual for Massachusetts. "It's worse than last year. Last year it was just a temporary thing. This year it's been never-ending."
It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make just a single gallon of syrup.
Maple is big business throughout the Northeastern US and Canada. Maine is the third-largest maple producer in the U.S. after New York and Vermont, with much of its product being shipped as bulk.
 According to a University of Maine study, Maine's maple industry has an estimated impact of $27.7 million directly to the state's economy.