Lakeshore, Ontario maple producer is tapping trees sooner than ever

Rob Nadeau, owner of Ruscom Maple Farm in Lakeshore, is taking a break from the early harvest.  (Mike Evans/CBC - photo credit)

Rob Nadeau, owner of Ruscom Maple Farm in Lakeshore, is taking a break from the early harvest. (Mike Evans/CBC – photo credit)

Sooner than ever, Rob Nadeau has been tapping into his maple trees hoping to catch the sweet stuff often.

Despite the early transport, Nadeau and other maple producers in the area are having to play a waiting game in hopes Mother Nature has a sweet tooth.

“It runs. We’re doing our best,” said Nadeau, who owns and operates Ruscom Maple Farm in Lakeshore, Ontario. “These trees were tapped at 2pm yesterday [Tuesday] Afternoon. Every single one [bucket] is overloaded, which is out of this world for this time of year.”

Nadeau said traditionally they tap on February 14 or 15. He attributes climate change to the early start.

“It is obvious that things change with the weather. And it’s going to affect us,” Nadeau said. “It’s already affecting us. We’re trying to pass that loop and catch the first juice run now. Even if it doesn’t stay cold for the next few days, the trees shouldn’t bud so early, there should always be a chance to bud. And that’s not so good for us.”

So Nadeau pays close attention to the long-term prediction and takes advantage of the early start.

“It’s supposed to get pretty cold at night,” Nadeau said. “After this week, next week and early next Monday, Tuesday, we should have stable runs all the way and continue with that success.”

He hopes.

Mike Evans/CBC

Mike Evans/CBC

Maple syrup producers also need the cold

The concern for maple producers is if it stays too warm too quickly.

“If you’re not that cold at night, you’re not getting the shock in the tree that you need,” Nadeau said. “You need that shock of -5°C to 5°C. Once it’s 5C and it starts to thaw, the wound from the tapping creates so much pressure there that it has to find a way out.

“The fear is that we won’t get as much juice,” he said. “If it stays too warm and you don’t have that shock, the tree will suddenly start to bud. And when the tree buds, the sap is no longer good. He just doesn’t have the sweetness. He’s milky. When it gets cloudy you know when to end the season.”

Nadeau hopes that’s not the case.

“It’s not going to be nice,” Nadeau said. “I’ve definitely never seen a winter like this before. This is our sixth year tapping into these trees. This weather is unheard of. It’s not maple weather at all. But if we stay like this, hopefully in the next two weeks we’ll know.”

Find the sweet spot

John Williams, executive director of the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers’ Association, said it’s a difficult decision whether to tap early or not, especially in these circumstances.

“Over the past 20 years or more, we’ve seen the seasons start earlier and earlier,” Williams said. “This year it just seems overdone. This worries us all in the maple world. Typing is a bit difficult. Pardon the pun, but it’s really about finding that sweet spot.


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