N.H. maple production a record

Good news for pancake lovers everywhere: The 2011 maple syrup season was New Hampshire’s best on record, surpassing the 100,000-gallon mark for the first time ever.”It was an exceptional year all around,” said Robyn Pearl, publicist for the New Hampshire Maple Producers Association. “It just kind of blew the top off.”For Pearl, the numbers confirm the good news she has been hearing from satisfied syrup producers in the state all year. According to recently released U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, New Hampshire produced 120,000 gallons of maple syrup in 2011, a sharp rise compared to the 87,000 gallons produced in 2010.And during that period, the number of taps in the state remained steady at 420,000, meaning each tap yielded about 10 ounces more syrup than the previous year.”I’m surprised they were that high – we’ve never had a year that high,” said Pearl, who estimates there are upwards of 900 maple producers across the state. “We were hopeful to break 100,000 – 120,000 is fantastic.”New Hampshire is the third-largest producer of maple syrup in New England, eclipsed by Vermont – which produced 564,000 gallons in 2011 – and Maine, which produced 360,000 gallons. Based on an average of 90,000 gallons per year, maple syrup is a $5 million industry for the state, said Pearl – and its economic impact could be even higher with such a significant rise in production.So what makes or breaks a maple season? That depends almost completely on the weather, said Pearl. Ideal conditions are nights that dip below freezing, followed by sunny days that warm up to the 40s on a fairly regular basis. And this year, the state got lucky.”Every year is a different story, you just never know,” she said. “It’s all weather at the right time, the right conditions at the right time.”All told, the maple syrup season lasted 32 days on average in New Hampshire this year, said the USDA.While Mother Nature plays an elemental role in maple syrup production, manmade technologies like vacuums and reverse osmosis can help pick up where she left off. But this year was so good, producers reported doing well whether they were using vacuums or buckets, said Pearl.”Best running taps all season were my buckets, believe it or not,” said Eric Johnson, owner of Tucker Mountain Maple in Andover.Maple syrup prices and value for the 2011 season will not be available until next June. “They do provide quite a bit of money to the local economy,” said Pearl. “It’s a real neat industry, and people really look forward to it every year.” — KATHLEEN CALLAHAN/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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