Long, cold temperatures slowing the flow of sap

tree sap
This year’s extra long winter is pushing back the production of one of nature’s sweetest treats. Syrup farmers are saying they finally expect to begin collecting sap this week.

Northern Michigan farmers said it’s been an unusual season compared to recent years. From Charlevoix and Shepherd, producers said they haven’t gotten any sap yet this season.

Jan Currey is a co-owner of Currey Farms, they make maple syrup in Charlevoix.

“In the north, where we’re always about a week behind producers in the south, no one has got sap flow yet to our knowledge, which is very unusual,” she said. “We have optimism about [Friday]; it’s supposed to be cold again, and then nice and warm, so we’re wondering if we’ll get some sap in Charlevoix.”

Now, even with warmer weather, it may not be enough for farmers to overcome the snow that is still on the ground.

“At our operation in Charlevoix, many of our side hills, which several of our trees are located, are still under anywhere from 2-4 feet of snow,” Currey said. “That means even if we have the weather, the ground is still frozen and covered with cold snow, and that will possibly delay the sap moving from the roots and out of the tree.”

She said it took seven days to tap all of the trees this year. It’s a job that normally takes four or five days.

Again, producers are optimistic the flow will begin soon especially in the central Michigan area. That’s good news for the annual Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival. It’s just over a month away.

Arnie Hammel, a volunteer at the Shepherd Sugarbush, said producers have learned to save up syrup from the year before in case of times like these.

“We know that there will be syrup,” he said. “We certainly have to keep syrup in drums that are all sealed up that we need to can during the year, like every month or so. We have several barrels left, and so there’s no doubt that there will be syrup.”

Both Currey and Hammel agree that the quality of the sap should be as good as ever, but the yield will be down. Neither of the two know yet by how much.

If the sap harvest remains slow, the price of maple syrup this year may rise.