ADDISON COUNTY — Last year’s maple sugaring season may have ranked among the worst in recent memory. But in 2013, Mother Nature delivered in spades.
“This year broke all records,” said Tom Audet of Ledge Haven Farm in Orwell. “In quantity, quality and length of season, it was just a record breaker.”
Like Audet, sugarmakers across the county are reporting a record season.
Audet said he usually pulls around 1,100 to 1,200 gallons of syrup annually. This year, he made 2,000. In recent seasons, the Audets have been done sugaring by mid-March. This year, despite a 10-day period in the middle of March when sap didn’t run, the season ran for almost eight weeks — from the second week of February until the second week of April.
As for the syrup itself?
“We had excellent flavor, for all grades,” Audet said.
While Audet said that Ledge Haven Farm normally finishes the season with a stretch of commercial-grade syrup, this year there was only a short period where Ledge Haven Farm made darker syrup, and even that syrup was of an unusually high quality.
“That in itself is a record,” Audet said with a laugh.
Up in Addison County’s higher elevation towns, sugarmakers started the season a week or two behind the sugaring houses in the valley. But in the third week of April, they were still going strong.
At the Triple T Mapleworks in Shoreham the Patterson family last week was cleaning their equipment after a banner year. The growing business bottled 170 gallons of syrup last year, and, after nearly tripling their number of taps this year, bottled 850 gallons this past season.
“That is awesome,” said Michelle Patterson. “It was a busy season.”
She said they produced a lot of “fancy” syrup, not much commercial grade.
Like many sugaring operations, Triple T uses a reverse osmosis machine that takes the excess water out of the sap before it is sent to the evaporator to be boiled. This means that they don’t need to boil the sap as long to make maple syrup, which means they need less fuel to fire the evaporator.
“I heard of a lot of sugarmakers who ran out of wood” because the season was so long, Patterson said.
Triple T traces its roots back to the sugaring season six years ago, when then-11-year-old Taylor Patterson collected sap in a soda bottle and boiled it in his kitchen on the stove. Since then, Taylor has brought his mother, Michelle, and her partner, Michael Burns, into the operation. Now younger siblings Tanner and Taryn have signed on, as well.
The family, which operates in the same sugarhouse that Michelle’s great-uncle set up a century ago, plans to add another 1,000 taps next year.
Down in Leicester, Andy and Donna Hutchinson were also reveling in this year’s yield.
“This year was much, much longer,” said Donna Hutchinson. “You made twice as much.”
The Hutchinsons are coy about precisely how much syrup they made this year, but they are certainly pleased with the season’s outcome.
“Let’s just say…We have 3,400 taps, so you can imagine,” Hutchinson said with a laugh. “We make a lot of syrup.”