The annual maple season got off to another early start with warmups in parts of New England, reports the AP, and producers are hopeful the recent cold and snow will extend it. Some producers in Vermont, the country's largest producer of maple syrup, have been going strong and producing a fair amount since mid-February, though historically the season has been later, per the Vermont Maple Sugar Producers Association. "It's a little disturbing that we're starting so early. It's getting to be the norm almost," said Doug Bragg, of Bragg Family Farm Sugarhouse & Gift Shop in East Montpelier. "But the thing is that when it starts early, you know it's going to get cold again, so you almost, so far, you get kind of two shots at it. It's almost like a second little season."
It takes warm days and freezing nights for sap to flow in maple trees. But when temps get too high, the season abruptly ends with the appearance of buds on maple trees. According to the USDA, Vermont's maple season has started in early January the past three years but historically has started in late February. More sugar makers are getting their taps in earlier, so they're ready for those early sap flows. Producers along the coast and in southern New Hampshire had early sap runs during late January and early February. In Maine, however, some syrup makers are just getting started in the northern part of the state. To the south, it's a different story. "The fear is that it's so warm that the season will end soon," said Michael Bryant, of Hilltop Boilers Maple Syrup in Newfield. The Maine governor's annual ceremonial tree-tapping event is on March 20. "We'll be done making syrup before then," he said.