Maple syrup producers say 2022 hitting the sweet spot

The sap is flowing this spring and maple syrup producers in eastern Ontario say after struggling through two years of the pandemic, the timing couldn’t be sweeter.

After struggling in the pandemic, maple syrup producers thankful for 'typical' year

The sap is flowing this spring and maple syrup producers in eastern Ontario say after struggling through two years of the pandemic, the timing couldn't be sweeter.

Mark Wheeler operates Wheelers Pancake House, Sugar Camp and Museums in Lanark County and said while production this year has been "typical," it is nice to welcome back crowds.

"It's great to see people being able to experience the love of maple syrup again," Wheeler said.

In Ontario, maple syrup season generally runs from about mid-March to mid- or late April, depending on where forests are located.

Producers say the ideal temperature to get sap flowing from trees is about –5 C at night and 5 C during the day.

Children enjoy maple candy at Fulton's Pancake House and Sugar Bush. (Robyn Miller/CBC)

Shirley Fulton-Deugo from Fulton's Sugar Bush and Maple Shop in Pakenham just west of Ottawa said they're still not producing their goal of one litre per tap, but things are definitely looking better than last year.

In the spring of 2021 a warm snap ended the season early and pandemic restrictions made business operations a challenge.

"Over the last two years in COVID many of … our businesses have been kept alive by our local support and our support from Ottawa, and that has been noticed and appreciated a great deal," Fulton-Deugo said.

The 'nature of maple'

John Williams, executive director of the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association, said "every bush is different" in terms of sap production this season.

"That's part of the nature of maple … There are so many variables in the natural system that we hook into to produce our sap and make our maple syrup," Williams said.

The association represents about 600 "sugar makers" in the province, or more than 75 per cent of maple syrup produced.

Maple candy setting in the snow at Fulton's Pancake House and Sugar Bush in Pakenham, Ont. (Robyn Miller/CBC)

Williams said he expects most will surpass their poor season last year, but final results won't flow in until the last tap is pulled.

"We're waiting to see if there's some cream rising to the top. Is it going to be a good season, or is it going to be OK?" he said.

On Ottawa's eastern border, Ivan Garland of Garland Sugar Shack described his year as "excellent."

"Last year was one of the worst years on record, so if you're comparing to last year, this is a boomer year. It could actually turn out to be a record year if the temperature keeps going the way it is," he said.

Ivan Garland of Garland Sugar Shack stands beside a maple sap evaporator on their farm in Vars in rural east Ottawa in 2017. (Andrew Foote/CBC)