(LAPORTE, INDIANA) - Producers described the maple syrup season this year as anywhere from decent in northern Indiana to very disappointing in southwest Michigan.
The season is over for syrup makers who pulled their taps when sap flows stopped during a week-long streak of mild weather toward the middle of March. Some producers, though, kept their taps in the trees hoping for a return of the daily temperatures below and above freezing needed for one last sap run.
One of them is Don Dodd, who's made only half of the roughly 300 gallons of syrup he averages during a season from his sugar bush outside Niles.
"We had one good run. Everything else was just dribbles," Dodd said.
Dodd first started getting sap at the end of February and, usually, has enough output from his trees to collect until the end of March or early April. However, he hasn't seen a drop from his taps in more than ten days.
Temperatures recently became favorable again for sap to resume flowing, but it might take one or two days for Dodd to know if there's another run left in his maple trees.
"I'll be surprised if it amounts to much," Dodd said.
However, producers in northern Indiana seemed reasonably pleased with their production levels. John Loucks said he expected to have his usual 700 gallons of syrup after boiling the rest of his sap at his sugar house outside New Paris. Loucks reported good sap flows after tapping his trees in late February and pulled the taps about three weeks later.
"We had a pretty good season. I'm happy," Loucks said.
Lamoine Beachler said he had no complaints about the season at his northern Indiana sugar bush. In the middle of March, Beachler pulled the 3,000 taps from his maple trees in Claypool and quit boiling for people who bring him sap from their 5,000 taps.
The quality of the sap Beachler collected toward the end of his season diminished noticeably because of an extended lack of freezing temperatures.
"We were just making pretty strong tasting syrup," Beachler said.
Beachler's syrup is sold out of his sugar house and other retail outlets, farmer's markets, and other producers. He finished the season with about 2,800 gallons of syrup, at the lower end of his average production. Nevertheless, Beachler said he's just happy to be making syrup regardless of the amount.
"I'm reluctant to give a grade on the season. If you start grading a season, you start to grade the creator who gave it to us, and we don't do that. Whatever he gives, we're glad for it," Beachler said.