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Environment & Energy

Look Out, Pancake Lovers: February Freeze Could Mean Less Syrup

With many people hoping for an end to the chilly weather, one group of Pennsylvanians is eager for the cold snaps to continue.

Pennsylvanian maple camps usually produce more than 100,000 gallons of maple syrup each year, with 146,000 gallons bottled in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This year, that number might be lower unless the weather cooperates, according to several local, family-owned maple production businesses.

Everett Sechler, president of the Somerset County Maple Producers Association, also works for the family-operated Sechler’s Sugar Shack near Confluence, Pennsylvania. Sechler explained that unusually cold weather in February meant a late start to this year’s sap-gathering season.

“I’ve personally been boiling maple syrup since 1983, and this is the first year I did not make a drop of maple syrup in the month of February,” Sechler said. “It was just too cold.”

Melissa Blocher of Milroy Farms in Salisbury, Pennsylvania, explained that sap does not begin flowing quickly until the first big thaws of spring. To continue flowing, the sap needs cyclical cold and warm temperatures.

“We like it freezing at night and warm during the day,” Blocher said. “Actually, we don’t care if it’s warm during the night and freezing during the day; we just want that swing in temperatures. So when everyone else is happy because it’s warm outside, we’re like ‘No, no, we want it to get cold again!’”

According to Blocher, sap-gathering could continue for another week and a half if temperatures continue to drop overnight.

Milroy Farms set a sap-gathering goal of 200,000 gallons for the entire 2015 season, according to Blocher. She thinks the farm will likely fall short by roughly 20,000 gallons due to February’s cold and the resulting late start.

Not all camps are expecting lower production this year. Andy Sanner of Sanner Maple Products in Rockwood, Pennsylvania admitted that his trees were affected by February’s cold weather, but said despite the late start, production is still on target.

“We get another freeze or two here…we should actually surpass last year’s totals,” Sanner said.