LAKE PLACID - As this year's maple season moves into full swing, producers throughout Northern New York are being urged to double the number of trees they tap.
Northern New York maple specialist and Uihlein Maple Forest director Michael Farrell recently completed a study measuring Northern New York's potential to grow its maple industry, and found the time is ripe for sugarbush owners to increase production.
"Northern New York has a vast resource of maple trees that could be tapped to fill growing markets' demand for pure maple syrup," said Farrell. "We currently tap only one in 200 trees whereas our neighbors in Vermont tap about one in every 50."
If maple producers in New York were to tap the same percentage of trees as those in Vermont, Farrell said, the Northern New York maple industry could grow to more than $9 million annually.
"If we figure in retail syrup sales, value-added confections, and agritourism events such as Maple Weekend, the economic impact would be much greater," said Farrell.
According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, the Northern New York region currently has 347 farms producing 84,177 gallons of maple syrup from 502,684 taps. Thirty-one of those farms operate in Essex County.
Farrell said the demand has grown worldwide for maple products, which are generally only produced in Canada and Northeastern U.S. Meanwhile, poor weather conditions in Quebec for the past three years have hindered syrup production there, creating even more of a shortage.
Several area maple producers are taking Farrell's advice and tapping more trees this year, hoping to take advantage of the recent spike in syrup prices.
"As we increase production, we need to continue to work on marketing," said Farrell. "There are not a lot of people in the country or the world that use the real stuff."
Warm days and cold nights are ideal for sap flow, and therefore, the typical sugaring season usually runs from late February through early April. The harvest season ends with the coming of spring's warm nights and the first stages of bud development on the trees.
To celebrate New York's maple season, the industry is hosting its 14th annual Maple Weekend March 21-22 and March 28-29. Over the course of the two weekends, 110 sugarhouses across the state will open their doors to the public in an effort to share with New Yorkers the process of syrup-making from tree to table.
The public is invited to take free, self-guided tours and see the process first-hand between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Some sugarhouses offer pancake breakfasts, gift shops and horse-drawn sleigh rides as well. For more information and a list of participating sugar houses, visit www.mapleweekend.com.