New York State officials gathered at a farm in Washington County today to kick off Maple Weekend.
“Our goal out here is just to celebrate one of nature’s best events and that’s the beginning of the season for maple out here in New York State," said New York State Agricultural Commissioner Richard Ball.
Ball was joined by State Senator Betty Little, Assemblyman Steve McLoughlin, and others at Dry Brook Sugar House in the Washington County town of Salem to mark the start of maple weekend.
After a few taps of a hammer, the gatherers cheered the first few ceremonial drops of sap from New York’s state tree, the sugar maple.
Commissioner Ball read a proclamation from Governor Andrew Cuomo announcing the Maple weekends March 22 and 23, and March 29 and 30.
New York currently ranks second in the nation when it comes to maple production. Last year, the state produced 574,000 gallons of syrup.
Inside the sugar house, boiling is underway. It’s the smell of sweetness.
Because of the colder winter, the maple sugaring season got off to a slower start this year compared to the record-breaking 2013.
Mary Jean Packer of the Upper Hudson Maple Producers Association is optimistic for the remainder of the season.
"You only have a year like last year now and then, but we're going to have an average season, I think," said Packer. "This region of New York state makes some of the best syrup in the world because of our soils, because of the talent of our sugar markers."
Kevin Keyes, a co-owner and operator of the Dry Brook Sugar House, said it’s up to mother nature to determine how the sugaring season will continue, which requires warm days and freezing nights, but he does have some hopeful predictions.
"I look at the long-range forecast," said Keyes. "If we can boil through to April 20th, we can recoup some of what we lost. I don't think we can get it all back."
Keyes said the Dry Brook Sugar House has been preparing for this weekend of horse-drawn rides and pancake breakfasts all season.
Vermont, which ranks first in the nation for maple syrup production, is celebrating its 2014 Maple Open House weekend tomorrow and Sunday. Massachusetts is also opening its sugar shacks for its Maple Weekend.