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Maine

Maine Sugarhouses Benefiting from Moderate Winter

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Lyle Merrifield checks sap lines at farm in Gorham.

SMYRNA, Maine_ Nearly 100 maple producers are opening their sugarhouses for Maine Maple Sunday, with many opening on Saturday as well. And this time they have something to show.
"Wow! We're back to normal." says Kevin Brannen, who taps about 3000 trees at Spring Break Maple and Honey in Smyrna.  The last couple of years have been a bit stressful for maple syrup producers, with sap running so late that sugarhouses barely had any of the liquid gold in their evaporators by the time Maine Maple Sunday rolled around.

This year, that's not the case.

"Production wise we're about a third of our way through our season. Quality has been excellent. It's been a good season so far." says Brannen.

  Farther South, things are further along; a truncated winter caused some producers to fly into production mode as early as late January.
"Pretty much on the Southern end of the state, we're wrapping up as far as sap collection right now. But Central Maine is still producing syrup and Northern Maine is probably only halfway through their season." says Lyle Merrifield, president of the Maine Maple Producers Association.

  While flavor and color have been good, Merrifield notes that the sap is particularly "sandy" this year, requiring extra filtration. The natural niter is the result of mineral content in the sap and levels can change dramatically from year to year, depending on soil and weather conditions. This year, he says producers are finding it challenging to keep filters clear of the mineral fall out, but consumers shouldn't notice any difference.

97 sugarhouses are open on Maine Maple Sunday, with many making a full weekend of it.

 On offer at many of the farms will be syrup samples, maple bacon, maple candy, ice cream sundaes, rides, demonstrations, and maple farm tours.