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Spring’s Slow Maple Sap Run Affects Production

Roland Jorns has been making maple syrup for over 70 years, and he said this year “was the worst of them all.” Photo by Paula Hedeen.

Cherry growers aren’t the only ones who could benefit from Gov. Walker’s request for federal agricultural aid. The governor also asked for help for the state’s maple syrup producers, who suffered high losses due to this spring’s extreme weather.

“I’ve been at this 73 or 74 years now,” says Roland Jorns, owner of Jorns’ Sugar Bush in Egg Harbor, “and this was the worst of them all.”

Jorns says that his taps were dry this spring because there weren’t very many nighttime freezes. Those freezes, and accompanying thaws the next day, are what make the maple sap run from the tree.

In a normal year, Jorns can produce up to 40 barrels of syrup. This year, he produced only two.

“I told the crew, in a laughing mood, if I got paid four or five dollars an ounce, I’d still be in the hole,” he says.

Ed Staats, owner at Country View Farms in Sturgeon Bay, says that he normally makes about five or six sap collection runs each spring. This spring he made only two, and his normal production of 750 gallons of syrup fell to just over 400 gallons.

Staats says that last year was a good year for production, and as a result he has some extra stock saved up. He’s unsure, however, if that stock will last him through the year.

“We’ll make it into fall,” he says, “but I don’t know how we’ll do in the Christmas season. That’s when there’s another rush.”

Staats says that normally he sells his syrup at about $50 a gallon, meaning that the 350-gallon decrease in production equates to a loss of about $17,500.

According to both Staats and Jorns, their syrup prices have gone up a little bit to accommodate for the loss, but they probably won’t be going up any more.

“It’s not our customers’ fault that we didn’t have a crop,” says Staats. “We don’t want to scare people away.”

Neither Staats nor Jorns plan to apply for federal loans if Gov. Walker’s request for a federal agricultural disaster declaration goes through, but Jorns says that others in the state probably will.

“Some people would be under without this to keep them going in a year like this,” he says.