The sap really started to run around the Ides of March. Maple trees produce when the daytime temperature is above freezing and it turns cold at night, as every Townshipper knows. This year the start came late by St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, Dave Hall had produced just 400 gallons at his sugar bush in Iron Hill. If that sounds like a lot, he and his family run a huge operation tapping 22,000 trees, with blue tubing snaking through the maple bush bringing the sap to be boiled into syrup. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup.
“In a good year we make 7,200 gallons; in a bad year 5,000,” says Hall, who is not only a major producer in the area but also the local head of the maple syrup marketing board as president of Producteurs et productrices acéricoles du Québec for Montérégie Est. “It’s all up to the weather. Ask me on April 15 and I will tell you what kind of year we’ve had.”
Production is a long way from the old system of buckets hanging on maple trees. At the Hall’s they use a computer to check how full various tanks are and on the condition of their pipeline. “Squirrels and deer can cause damage and so can the wind,” says Andrew Hall.
Quebec is the OPEC of the maple syrup world, producing 70% of the world’s output. Vermont is a distant second. There are about 25 maple syrup producers in the Town of Brome Lake alone, some of them with even larger operations than the Hall’s.