Maple Weekend In Berlin
by David Flint
Joining 150 other sugar houses across the state, Kent’s Sugar House on the Plank Road in Berlin celebrated the 15th Annual New York Maple Weekend on March 20-21 and the celebration continues this weekend, March 27-28. Maple Weekend is a project of the New York State Maple Producers Association. It’s an open house weekend, hours from 10 am to 4 pm, and an opportunity to see how maple syrup and other maple products are made from the tapping of the trees to the boiling of the sap into syrup and the making of maple cream, butter, sugar and candy.
Kent Goodermote has been making maple syrup and associated products for 35 years. With his wife Lilly, his dad, Doug Goodermote, and partners Todd and Sheila Hewitt, he tends some 900 taps in maple
trees scattered around the town. The taps drain sap through plastic tubing into six holding tanks, which is then transported to the main holding tank at the sugar house.
They started boiling down the sap on March 5, but it has not been the best year for sugaring, Kent said, because we are not getting good hard freezing at night. For proper sap flow there should be night temperatures between 20 and 25 degrees and above freezing in the daytime. So at Kent’s Sugar House they have made only 57 gallons of syrup so far. As soon as the buds come out on the trees, the season is over. In an average year Kent makes about 200 gallons. A good year would produce 250 gallons or more.
New this year at Kent’s is the use of new blue tubing. The tubing is smoother on the inside and is transparent so it heats up less than the older black tubing and is less conducive to bacteria growth. It’s also semi-rigid and doesn’t sag as much as the black tubing. Kent has also switched over now to smaller diameter spouts, known as health spouts. They require a smaller hole in the tree so it heals faster.
Sugaring is a labor of love. Except for a small stand of trees right around the sugar house, Kent rents all the other trees that he taps. This means he must remove all the taps and lines each year when the season ends and replace them the next year. It takes three people two or three days to complete the installation
Kent said he wants to keep prices where they are so there will be no price rise this year. A gallon of syrup costs $49. A half gallon sells for $25 and a half pint is $6.50. Other products include maple sugar, maple candy, maple cream and maple flavored tea and coffee.
According to the NYS Dept. of Agriculture & Markets, last year across New York State, with 1.51 million taps, maple producers were able to make 362,000 gallons of syrup. It takes approximately 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. New York maple syrup accounts for nearly 20 percent of the nation’s maple production, ranking New York third. In 2008, New York’s 1,500 maple producers generated $13.9 million in sales.
“The early arrival of spring here in New York presents the perfect opportunity for farmers to collect and boil sap from the abundance of sugar maple trees that grow naturally here in New York State,” said Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker. “The production of maple syrup is a truly unique commodity with a rich heritage here in New York, providing a wonderful topping for pancakes and ice cream, serving as a substitute for sugar in recipes and is a great family activity, whether making it yourself or simply observing the process. These weekends celebrate the tradition of making maple syrup here in New York, and I invite you to take your family to one of New York’s many sugar houses and experience this terrific treat for yourself!” Hooker said.