TAPPING OUT OF WINTER: Maple syrup season begins in the Northland

Published: Mar. 15, 2022 at 10:43 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN. (KBJR 6) -- This week’s warmer weather is a good thing for maple syrup tappers.

“When we get weather that’s consistently above freezing, especially above 40 where nights still freeze, that’s what’s great for maple syrup making,” said Doug Hoffbauer, known to many in Duluth as ‘Farmer Doug’.

He taps about 1,000 maple trees every spring.

“We get maybe ten days a year where the sap really runs,” Hoffbauer said.

The success of tapping is dependent on weather, but Hoffbauer said he’s optimistic about this year’s sap production.

“Our concerns this year goes back to last year’s drought and if the trees made up enough sugar reserves through photosynthesis to have those stored in the roots to start this season-I think we did,” Hoffbauer said.

The tapping season usually lasts about six weeks and can begin any time in March and go all the way up until the end of April or early May, according to Hoffbauer.

“If you have a small number of trees, right now would be a great time to start,” said Kathy Burgess, co-owner of Burgess Family Sugarhouse in Duluth.

They tap about 2,500 trees each season.

Burgess said for beginners, getting started is easier than you might think.

“It’s a really fun project, especially if you have children, and it doesn’t take a lot of investment to get started,” Burgess said.

Hoffbauer said it’s also a way to connect with the outdoors.

“This is an opportunity for hobbyists to go tap a few trees in their yard or neighbors yard, make enough for your Sunday morning pancakes, you can pour your own syrup,” Hoffbauer said.

Both Hoffbauer and Burgess said it takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.

On average, maple trees produce ten gallons per season.

Once harvested, sap is boiled to turn into maple syrup.

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