WILTON — The maple syrup business is booming despite the slow sap flow this spring.

The Maine maple syrup industry has a lot of potential, state Rep. Russell Black, R-Wilton, said Monday as he expanded the system of lines on his Wilton farm and prepare for Sunday’s celebration of Maine Maple Sunday.

For the Black Acres Sugar Shack on Black Road, it’s a weekend event. The shack will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, he said.

Along with samples of maple syrup on ice cream and baked beans made with the syrup, the Blacks will offer their maple syrup sausage this year. People can tour the maple grove or visit the pigs, calves and baby animals in the barn.

More than 1,000 people came for Maine Maple Sunday last year, he said.

There’s plenty of product available, but he’s hoping the sap will run Thursday and Friday for some fresh syrup.

“It’s just too cold,” he said.

It will come, he added. Many years the sap runs and maple syrup is produced through April. It’s when the trees start to bud that the season is over.

Black expects to put in 1,000 taps this year, up from 700 last year. Despite a late start on tapping last season, he produced nearly 200 gallons, he said.

“It’s a good product, a healthy product,” he said. “A lot of people have more interest in maple sugar over traditional sugar.”

It’s also a good natural resource for the state.

Black was appointed by Gov. Paul LePage to chair the Maine Maple Sugar Industry Task Force three years ago. It was charged with encouraging expansion of the maple sugar industry, working with large landowners to promote leases of groves on their property and encouraging economic development of the industry, he said.

Of the state’s 4.1 million sugar maple trees, only about 1.8 million are tapped, he said. 

Maine did see a 40 percent increase in production of maple syrup last year, something Black credits to expansion and new technology. 

Maine ranks third in maple syrup production, following Vermont and New York. 

The state’s been neck and neck with New York for second place, but producers there are expanding, he said.

The work of the task force includes studies for the Legislature and continual education of the public about the maple syrup industry.

A report on the economic impact of the industry, released in February and provided by Black, says that: “Maine’s maple industry has an annual statewide economic contribution, including multiplier effects, of an estimated $48.7 million in output, 805 full- and part-time jobs, and $25.1 million in labor income.”

Although the state has 375 licensed Maine maple producers, “over 70 percent of the maple farms had fewer than 1,000 taps in 2013,” he said, quoting the report.

A small number of producers, about 10 percent, make 90 percent of the state’s maple syrup, he said. Many of these have continued the work for nearly 25 years and involve multiple generations of families.

Black has produced syrup for about 50 years.

“Started when I was 10 with 25 buckets,” he said of tapping trees traditionally. “I still do 150 to 200 buckets that way.”

Now it’s mostly lines of plastic tubing running downhill away from the shack, collected and hauled back to be boiled down.

“It’s a lot of work,” he said, although family and friends help out through the maple season.

More information is available at blackacresfarm.org

[email protected]


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