Maple syrup producers optimistic as season gets into full swing

Eastern Ontario maple syrup producers say they're optimistic about their 2017 season, which is about to hit its peak.

Recent, brief thaw was a bit of a 'false start' but didn't hurt business all that much

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

The bright, sweet-smelling kitchen at Garland Sugar Shack in rural east Ottawa was busy Sunday afternoon as its co-owner Ivan Garland made his way toward his office.

"It's a little chilly this morning so we're doing some of our products with last year's syrup… some maple sugar, I still have to do some maple jelly and maple popcorn," he explained.

Garland, who said he's been tapping maple trees for nearly 40 years as a hobby and the last 16 years as a business, said they'll start bringing in sap through their pipelines in the next week.

"The real season really never starts until around the 15th to 20th of March," he said.

"The old guys used to say 'Not before the full moon in March.' We're getting there tonight or tomorrow. The next melt, the season will be right in gear."

He called last season "phenomenal", with a previous summer that had enough rain transitioning into a winter that didn't drag on too long, unlike the two winters before.

This year, he said there haven't been any bad signs, yet.

"We're always nervous about the weather, that's for sure, but I'm always optimistic," he said.

"We're hoping for a good run, at least better than average."

Some trees tapped early

Earl Stanley, who owns Stanley's Olde Maple Lane Farm in rural east Ottawa, said the long-term forecast is looking good this season.

"Maple syrup farmers, we're looking for a 5 C/-5 C [temperature] differential. You get those nice warm days and cool nights, the sap will flow," he said in a phone interview Sunday.

"When you get -25, -30 C the trees think it's winter again and go dormant."

Stanley said he tapped some of his trees in the last week or two when temperatures bumped well above zero, but this recent cold snap cut off that flow.

"Maybe maple syrup in February was a bit of a false start," he said.

"Everybody thought winter was over but Mother Nature said, 'Nope, I'm going to give it another shot."

He said they'll tap the rest of the trees at that farm and another in Lanark County Monday and Tuesday and hopes to bring in over 3,000 litres of syrup between the two of them, which he said would be an average yield.