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Ontario maple syrup season off to a slow start

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WATCH: Around the province, trees have been tapped and the sap used to make maple syrup has been slowly flowing. Aaron Streck reports. – Mar 15, 2021

Around the province, trees have been tapped and the sap used to make maple syrup has been slowly flowing.

This is Cathy Grant’s first year making maple syrup at Purple Woods Conservation Area in north Oshawa.

“The sap started running, I think it was last week,” said Grant, who is with the Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority (CLOCA) land management department.

Grant was forced to transition to this role with the CLOCA due to the pandemic.
She says in only a few days they’ve bottled almost 130 litres of maple syrup.

“It’s all weather dependent, so if it’s above freezing then the sap will start to run,” she said.

But Monday morning, the lines were frozen and no sap was flowing.

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“Takes about 40 litres of sap to make one litre of syrup and the season usually runs during the month of March, so as we get minus five nights and plus five days we will start to see the sap run,” said Patricia Lowe, CLOCA Community Engagement Director.

At Purple Woods, between 1,000 and 1,200 trees are tapped. Now in its 46th year, the conservation authority says the goal is 1,300 litres of maple syrup.

“The season will go until the leaves and buds on the trees start to emerge and at that point the sap is used for creating the leaves, the sap gets very bitter; so it could be two weeks, could be a month,” said Lowe.

“Anytime we see double digit temperatures as a maple producer it makes you nervous,” said John Williams, Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association Executive Director.

That’s how Williams is feeling right now after looking ahead at the long range forecast.
Williams is hoping for a longer season, with the pandemic bringing more of a demand for the iconically Canadian condiment.

“Exports of Canadian syrup has been up 20 per cent in the last year and we’re seeing those kind of sales increase from some of our members across the province as well,” said Williams.

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CLOCA has faced many challenges over the last 12 months, one of them being the cancellation of the annual Maple Syrup Festival at Purple Woods yet again due to the pandemic. The event typically pulls in around 10,000 people to the area during the month of March.

“You don’t realize how much you look forward to something until it’s gone,” said Lisa Hastings, CLOCA communications specialist.

“People now have to make the effort to go online, they’re going to have to physically come and do curbside pick up but I think that people are very interested now in local foods and local businesses,” said Lowe.

As for Cathy Grant, the sugar bush will be her office for the next few weeks, helping produce as much maple syrup as she can until the season is over.

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