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Maple Syrup Season Drips to Life after Chilly Start

Image: Turtle Lane Maple farmer Paul Boulanger taps a maple tree by headlamp
Turtle Lane Maple farmer Paul Boulanger taps a maple tree by headlamp on March 9 in North Andover, Mass. Elise Amendola / AP

In chilly Massachusetts, maple season is off to a slow start.

Maple season starts at the end of February in a typical year. But despite being well into March, temperatures have been too low for the sap to drip out.

North of Boston, Turtle Lane Maple Farm in North Andover began its 10th season last weekend after nearly deciding to take the year off.

"Mother Nature has been quite cruel to us this year," said Paul Boulanger, who owns and runs the farm.

Last year, his small farm produced 110 gallons of syrup, but he said he'll be happy with 65 gallons this year. Although he expects the season to be a disappointing one, Boulanger says, he cares more about participating in a New England tradition than in producing a lot of syrup. More than 3,600 visitors took a tour of his farm last year.

Image: Paul Boulanger tosses wood in to fire up the sap evaporator at the Turtle Lane Maple sugar house in North Andover, Mass. on March 13.
Paul Boulanger tosses wood in to fire up the sap evaporator at the Turtle Lane Maple sugar house in North Andover, Mass. on March 13. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to yield one gallon of syrup. Elise Amendola / AP

Many farms have yet to start tapping their trees, said Winton Pitcoff, coordinator for the Massachusetts Maple Production Association. But it's too soon to say whether the late start will affect the overall maple season, which ends in April, Pitcoff said.

"We could still have a very good season," Pitcoff said. "There have been many seasons where it didn't start until late into March."

Image: Kathy Gallagher places maple sugar candy on a drying rack at the Turtle Lane Maple sugar house in North Andover, Mass. on March 14.
Kathy Gallagher places maple sugar candy on a drying rack at the Turtle Lane Maple sugar house in North Andover, Mass. on March 14. Elise Amendola / AP

But drastically fluctuating weather would be bad news, he said. A gradual warm-up is best for maple sugar production, he said.

— Associated Press