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Warm Spring May Slow The Drip Of Syrup From Trees, But Boost Visitors To Maple Syrup Farms

By Ryan Morden, contributing writer

Hannibal NY — The weather may be too warm for plentiful maple syrup production this year, but the good weather may bring more New Yorkers out to celebrate the 15th annual Maple Weekend.

Tim Fowler, who runs Maple Hollow Farm in Hannibal with his wife Becky, says without three feet of snow on the ground and ice on the roads, more people could be going out to visit maple syrup farm open houses throughout the state.

“The trade off is well worth it. A lot of people have no idea where your syrup comes from,” said Becky Fowler.

Maple season is only four-to-six weeks long. Chilly nights and warm days create the best conditions to get sap running from the trees.

Tim Mattison has a small stake in the Fowlers’ farm and helps out. He says if it doesn’t freeze at night, trees will stop producing sap after a couple of days.

“If you had to rely on the maple syrup season as a source of income or your source of sugar for your own household to survive on, you would be in desperate times,” said Mattison.

He and the Fowlers have full time jobs, so they’re not worried about relying on the syrup production for income.

They had hoped to produce around 200 gallons of maple syrup this year. By the time the season ends, they could end up with 60.

But the Fowlers’ spirits are high, because they say it’s not about making money. For them, it’s about education.

“It’s more about teaching people what you can get out of these trees instead of cutting them down,” said Becky Fowler. “Once you cut that tree down, it’s gone forever.”

“It’s a local resource that most people don’t know anything about,” said Tim Fowler.

They’ve been producing maple syrup for around 10 years. They used to just give it away. It’s only in recent years they’ve decided to sell it.

Along with free syrup samples, visitors can have complimentary hot dogs, milk, and cookies for lunch while the Fowlers answer questions and show first hand how syrup starts from a tree and ends up on a stack of pancakes.

Shirley Cianfarano, 84, came with two friends. She says it reminds her of the syrup her dad used to make, back in the mid 1930s.

“This tastes more what his was like,” said Cianfarano, who’s diabetic and had to restrain herself from having more than a small sampling.

She says it tastes better than what you can get from the grocery story.
“Mrs. Butterworth, or anything you buy out of the store is 98-percent corn syrup. That’s not maple syrup, that’s corn syrup with a splash of maple flavor,” said Tim Fowler, who says his is 100-percent pure.

According to New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets, the state produced 362,000 gallons of maple syrup last year and accounts for nearly 20-percent of the nation’s maple syrup production.

Maple Weekend continues next week at 150 sugarhouses all over the state, including two in Oswego County.

Visitors can go to the Fowlers’ farm at 1309 County Rte. 85 in Hannibal or check out Red Schoolhouse Maple at 2437 County Route 4 in Fulton. Check the map below for details.

[Ryan Morden is a reporter and news producer at WRVO-FM.]