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It's Time to Tap: Maple Season Preview

Sugar makers will be looking to bounce back from a damaging ice storm and begin to navigate a change in the grading system.

It's time to tap the maple trees at Thunder Basin Maple Works in Cambridge, Vermont.

There are about 70,000 taps on the farm. When sap starts flowing it comes fast according to owner Eric Sorkin.

“We've had as much as 20 even 25,000 gallons of sap come in. In the first hour,” Sorkin said.

Last year Thunder Basin Maple Works produced 38,000 gallons of organic syrup, making it one of the top five producers in Vermont.

The Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association reports 2013 has been one of the best years for sugar making in Vermont since the turn of the decade. In 2013 Vermont sugar makers produced 1,320,000 gallons of maple syrup. In 2012 it was only 750,000.

They’re hoping for something more like 2013 in 2014.

But circumstances have already led to some changes this year. An ice storm at the end of 2013 damaged tubing and many maple trees.

“Seemed to be right at the point where they were going to start cracking and breaking before it let up,” Sorkin said.

Sorkin says he dodged serious damage and other maple makers say they've had time to recover.

“Given that the damage was somewhat localized, I would not expect that storm to have a significant impact in Vermont’s total production this year,” Vermont Maple Sugar Maker’s Association Executive Director Matt Gordon said.

This year will also bring grading changes in Vermont though retailers will still be allowed to use the old system until the end of 2014.

“The new grades have gone into effect this year but there is a one year period where the old grading system can be used, that way producers can use up labels and transition over the course of this year.  In 2014 either grading system is legal to use in Vermont,” Gordon said.

To learn more about the maple grading changes click here and here.

This year Sorkin has already produced a start up batch of nine drums.

“That gives us an opportunity to get the kinks out of the system,” Sorkin said.

But March is when he'll really start hoping for cold nights followed by warm days to get the sap flowing.

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