Freshly made syrup pours into a collection bucket inside Scott Dunn’s sugar shack in Buxton last year. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Maine’s syrup production this year was the lowest it’s been since 2012, a result of weather conditions in northern parts of the state, maple producers say.

The 470,000 gallons of syrup Maine produced in 2023 was down about 25 percent from last year, when the total was 634,000 gallons, according to the crop report released Friday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. The last time the state produced less than 500,000 gallons was 2012, when it logged only 445,000 gallons.

Maple producers around the state attributed the drop-off to suboptimal weather conditions that left the trees too cold to run sap freely at the start of the season, then warmed quickly and dramatically, curtailing flow at the end of the season.

Producers in southern Maine fared better than those in the north, by and large. In March, many producers were optimistic that this year’s sap run would be bountiful.

But because the bulk of the state’s production happens in northern counties like Somerset and Franklin, it threw off the state’s totals for the year.

“Some of the producers here in southern Maine did really well and some were marginal, and most of the big ones up north were not good,” said Alan Greene, vice president of the Maine Maple Producers Association and owner of Greene Maple Farm in Sebago.


“For them up north, it never warmed up until the tail end of the season, and when it did, the season was over,” Greene said. “Down here, we had just the right weather combination in some places.”

Maine Maple Producers Association President Lyle Merrifield said many of the producers he’s spoken with in the northern part of the state were down about 50 percent from their expected syrup yields.

“It took us the same amount of time to set up and clean up as it does every year, and I know we didn’t miss any runs, but Mother Nature just didn’t want to work with us this year,” said C.J. King III, owner of The Maple Moose in Easton, who said he produced less than half the syrup he expected this season. “I think further north of me, they did worse than I did. Some areas downstate did good and some didn’t, but nobody up here did good. ”

Bart Bradbury of Bradbury Maple in Bridgewater said he made about 1,200 gallons of syrup this season, down about 25-30 percent from last year.

“We had cooler temperatures in the beginning of the season, and a warm snap that warmed up too quick and shortened the season on the tail end, too,” Bradbury said. “The syrup quality was very good, but the runs were smaller than what we typically expect.”

King noted that there are more variables involved in syrup production than just temperature, including wind and the density of the snowpack. He said the snowpack in northern parts of the state was “very dense” this year, which may have made it difficult for maple trees to draw adequate water from the ground.


Northern counties also experienced several windstorms earlier this year, King said.

“If you get a 30 mile-an-hour wind, that stresses the tree so there’s no sap movement,” he said. “There are a lot of factors that have to be right for syrup to flow, and they have to be exceptionally right for it to flow well.”

Merrifield said the unpredictable nature of syrup production means that downswings like this year’s will necessarily happen from time to time.

“Last year, a lot of producers made more syrup than ever,” he said. “Syrup production is a whole lot different than any other kind of agricultural commodity. You can have an awesome year, and then you really want to be looking over your shoulder.”

Nationally and in the Northeast’s other major syrup-producing states – Vermont and New York – the 2023 yield was down from last year but up from 2021, according to the USDA report.

Still, Merrifield said, based on his own observations at Merrifield Farm in Gorham, new seasonal patterns are emerging.

“There’s no question in my mind that my syrup season is changing,” Merrifield said. “It’s coming earlier, it lasts shorter with warmer days. We’re trending toward a shorter, quicker season.”

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