Consider the sweet life of Lyle Merrifield.

He first learned about tapping trees and making maple syrup as a kindergartener at White Rock School in Gorham. He learned more in the Boy Scouts, then pursued it as a hobby when he was a young adult. By the late 1990s, his family’s Merrifield Farm, also in Gorham, had become a substantial syrup producer.

Today, at 61, he’s president of the Maine Maple Producers Association. He took time to answer questions last week as he was preparing for the 41st Annual Maine Maple Sunday weekend, this Saturday and Sunday, when more than 100 maple farms and sugarhouses will open their doors to the public.

1. What is your favorite way to eat maple syrup?

Oh, I do enjoy maple syrup on vanilla ice cream. But I also enjoy maple syrup on scallops wrapped in bacon. Near the end of the cooking process, you baste them with it a little bit. It’s kind of two different avenues, you know, the ice cream is on one end of the spectrum, and the scallops are on another end.

2. How much maple syrup do you and your family go through in a week? 


Oh, of course it’s less since my two adult daughters have moved out of the house, but it wasn’t uncommon for us – and some other families I know – to use at least a pint to a quart a week. You can baste any meat with it. I think something we’re seeing a lot of is people using it as a sweetener in their overall recipes. The recipes need to be adjusted some because the syrup is a wet sweetener and dry sugar isn’t. So that obviously puts consumption way up. I’ve always used maple syrup in my coffee, not white sugar.

3. Do you ever get sick of maple syrup? Do you need to take a break?

No, because my wife uses it in recipes where you don’t know it’s there, because it’s the sweetener. I don’t consume anywhere near what I used to, but I don’t get sick of it. No.

4. What’s the most memorable or surprising thing that’s happened during Maine Maple Sunday weekend? 

We’ve had a handful of pretty stormy, windy, snowy, miserable days, and I am always amazed by the amount of people that turn out. As far as they’re concerned, that’s part of it.  They come out to the farms, not just our farm, but to all the farms. They just don’t give up on it. At our particular farm, we serve ’em breakfast, but it’s all outside. They’ll sit there and eat their breakfast in the wind and the cold.

5. Is the mild weather in Maine this winter having any impact on how much syrup might be produced this year? 

Right now, it appears that most producers, especially in the southern to central parts of the state, have produced a fair amount of syrup. But this weather hasn’t been ideal for it. There’s no question the weather has had a sizable impact on the maple industry. We realize we all need to be ready a bit sooner because the season is more sporadic. You can’t count on a long cold snap or a long warm snap. We’re having two or three micro seasons instead of one long season.

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