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Why some Ontario maple syrup producers are tapping into the earliest season ever

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Mild temperatures to begin the year have resulted in the earliest start to maple syrup season ever for some producers in southern Ontario.

At Maple Tap Farm in New Dundee, they started tapping during the first week of February.

“It’s the earliest season we’ve ever tapped before,” Maple Tap Farm owner Andrew Sallan said.

“As soon as the sun comes out and it reaches zero, the sap starts running.”

At Snyder Acres in Woolwich, they started even earlier.

“This year we actually started tapping the last day of January,” owner Graham Snyder said.

For producers, it’s all about picking the perfect moment. Ideally, it’s around -5 degrees over night so the tree freezes up, and then heats up to around 5 degrees during the day so sap flows again.

“You look for that window where you think the best weather is going to be and you look for that six week window. It’s hard to tell,” Snyder said.

“In February, you can get a week of really cold weather. That’s a week that you’re not making any maple syrup and that’s a week the tree is thinking of healing that wound that you’ve drilled into it.”

Starting a little later in the season sometimes results in higher yields.

“Usually at the end of the season, that’s when your big, big runs come – your big sap runs. So tapping early, you may have a little bit less sap at the end of the year,” Sallans said.

Kevin Snyder, the president of the Waterloo-Wellington Maple Syrup Producers Association, said it’s become more difficult for farmers to predict when the season will kick off.

“The word normal doesn’t come to mind anymore. We’re relying on Mother Nature, so we go when the temperatures are appropriate for syrup production,” he said.

“Years ago it was more predictable. It was typically the beginning of March when we’d start tapping trees.”

Despite some early starts, he said the past few seasons have resulted in crops that were considered average or above average.

“A lot of producers are really happy with what they’ve produced in the last bunch of years,” he said.

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