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2013 looking like a better year for maple producers

Maple producers across New York will throw open their doors to visitors this weekend and next for the state’s 18th annual Maple Weekend. 

Dave Schiek, whose family has been boiling sap into syrup on a farm in Yates County for 85 years, says maple season is off to a good start -- and that’s welcome news after last year’s warm weather reduced state production by a third.

Schiek says New York is still in second place behind Vermont when it comes to maple production in the United States. But both lag behind Quebec, which produces 80 percent of the world’s syrup.

"Yet it’s interesting to note that New York has more maple trees than Quebec. So it’s an underutilized resource that we do have in this state," said Schiek.

Schiek says he’s been noticing more of an effort to market New York maple products to major grocery chains.  That, plus incentives for landowners who allow their maple trees to be tapped, means this is an industry sure to grow.

Part of the marketing is to emphasize the many different products that feature maple. Michelle Ledoux, with Lewis County’s Cooperative Extension, says visitors are often surprised to learn about unexpected  uses for maple syrup.

"Maple barbecue sauce, maple mustard, maple cream -- things like that, they’re just like 'wow! we didn’t know that maple syrup was in all that.'" said Ledoux.  "Maple syrup is not just for your pancakes."

Ledoux says bout one-hundred-fifty producers are participating in this year’s Maple Weekend events. Some sites will feature old-fashioned set ups with buckets and horse drawn wagons, while others will show off more modern techniques involving extensive tubing.

Ledoux agrees with Schiek that this year seems to be off to a better start for maple producers.

"I'm very happy that we’ve had warm temperatures above freezing during the day, and we’ve had freezing temperatures at night.  So we’ve had good sugaring weather!"

A 2011 study from Cornell University found that only one percent of New York’s available maple trees are tapped.  With a modest increase in production, the authors estimated the industry could rake in $80 million a year.

More information about this Maple Weekend locations and events are at mapleweekend.com

After taking a semester off from college to intern with Vermont Public Radio in 1999, Sidsel was hooked. She went on to work as a reporter and producer at WNYC in New York and WAMU in Washington, DC before moving to New Mexico in 2007. As KUNM’s Conservation Beat reporter, Sidsel covered news from around the state having to do with protection of our earth, air and water. She also kept up a blog, earth air waves, filled with all the bits that can’t be crammed into the local broadcast of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. When not interviewing inspiring people (or sheep), Sidsel could be found doing underdogs with her daughters at the park.