Ed and Pat Jillson had 3,000 people visit their Sabattus farm on Maine Maple Sunday in 2019. The annual event scheduled for Sunday has been canceled due to the coronavirus. “We have never canceled before,” said Pat, who has participated in Maine Maple Sunday every spring since 1983. “We come out of the winter owing money,” Ed said. “We won’t be able to make that (money) up.” Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Maine Maple Producers Association announced Monday afternoon that all Maine Maple Sunday events should be postponed in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The nonprofit organization, which represents half of the state’s 450 maple producers, said they made the decision based on recommendations by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and local government officials.

For a majority of farmers and maple producers in Central and Western Maine, Maine Maple Sunday is the busiest day of the year. The maple industry brings $27 million a year into the state, and at least half of that is from selling syrup and other maple products on Maine Maple weekend.

Mary Ann Haxton said she and her partner, Marty Elkin, have been operating A Wrinkle in Thyme Farm in Sumner since 1995 and have participated in Maine Maple Sunday for the “last 10 or 15 years.”

“It’s huge for us,” Haxton said. “This is primetime for us, in the spring, when families come to the farm, see how we raise animals, usually have breakfast with us.”

However, Haxton said she and Elkin are both in their 70s, which places them more at risk of contracting the virus.

“Based on the governor declaring a state of emergency and what the CDC has been recommending, it feels like canceling is the right thing to do,” Haxton said.

Patricia Jillson, owner of Jillson’s Farm and Sugarhouse in Sabattus, said a week ago that she was still considering participating in Maine Maple Sunday, but like Haxton, she changed her mind upon hearing that Gov. Janet Mills was declaring a state of emergency.

“We’ve been doing this for 32 years or so, and we were really considering doing it up until last night,” Jillson said, “but there’s going to be too many people, too many hands exchanging money, which makes it too risky.”

For Jillson and many other farm and sugarhouse owners, Maine Maple Sunday represents the busiest day of the year for their businesses.

“We get at least 2,000 people over that weekend, with lines going out the door all day,” Jillson said. “It’s a huge day for us, but I think that’s typical of all of the farms in Maine. This year, though, I don’t think we have an option.”

Up until Monday, Wayne Slattery, owner and operator of Slattery’s Farm and Maple Supply Company, said that he was hoping to still host a pancake breakfast at his farm in West Minot.

“As long as the volunteers who were going to help me don’t drop out, I’m planning to host it,” Slattery said.

However, shortly after, he announced on Facebook that his pancake breakfast would be canceled, though his store would remain open over Maine Maple weekend.

The association said producers who decide to hold their events regardless should take precautions, such as providing hand sanitizer and/or hand-washing stations and not letting staff or volunteers who feel unwell work the events.

Portland Press Herald staff writer Meredith Goad contributed to this report.


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