Maple syrup season arrives early at Canada’s most southern sugar shack
Maple tree tapping started a week sooner than usual in southern Ontario where a mild winter has maple syrup hobbyists and producers hoping things cool down.
Sap buckets were overflowing less than 24 hours after being installed in Ruscom Station, Essex County.
“So far so good,” said Rob Nadeau, Ruscom Maple Products owner and operator.
“The heat that we've had, it’s just been ridiculous for the month of February,” Nadeau added. “We started looking at should we tap or shouldn't we tap. Again looking at the patterns down south of us, they’re tapping already so let's give it a shot.”
According to Nadeau, 456 silver maple trees were hand tapped at his family operated farm on Feb. 7, with 100 more to follow soon.
According to Rob Nadeau, Ruscom Maple Products owner and operator, tapping of maple syrup trees began a week earlier than usual in 2023. (Chris Campbell/CTV News Windsor)He said things traditionally get underway on Valentine’s Day based on how producers are operating south of the border in U.S. states like Ohio and Indiana, believing his operation to be the southern most in all of Canada.
“If this early run is any indication with the cold snap coming next week, we're hoping to have a run right into the end of March.”
But, Nadeau fears if more winter-like weather doesn’t return soon, the sweetest season ever could be cut short.
“It's going to be our biggest year of all time,” Nadeau explained. “There's no doubt as long as the sap runs. If the heat stays and the trees start budding, the sap will no longer be good. So we're hoping that's not the case. And I think I've got faith in nature and it's [going to] come.”
The Ontario Maple Syrup Producers’ Association said freezing temperatures are needed at night to keep sap flowing during the day.
According to Rob Nadeau, Ruscom Maple Products owner and operator, tapping of maple syrup trees began a week earlier than usual in 2023. (Chris Campbell/CTV News Windsor)“Compared to what we had 20, 30, 40 years ago, we're already regularly tapping ahead of that,” said President John Williams. “And now we seem to be looking at an extra week or two ahead this year.”
He continued, “Once we’re tapped, if we get a lot of that minus five at night and plus five in the daytime, then we can we can still have a good season.”
Williams told CTV News Windsor, “At this point, I wouldn't say anyone is panicking. We're certainly concerned. We can still have a good season. But, we're trying to be ready to make the best of it.”
Williams noted Ontario ranked third in the country for maple syrup production, behind Quebec and New Brunswick. He encouraged more people to consider the seasonal industry, and said there were currently 600 OMSPA members registered, but likely thousands of hobbyists across the province.
“We have more available trees in Ontario than Quebec, so there's a lot of potential,” he said.
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