The warm weather as a result of unique weather systems and impacted by the climate crisis is changing a lot of things, and one of them is that maple syrup sap is running earlier than ever before, at least according to one local farmer.
Derek Elliott runs the Elliott Tree Farm near Hillsburgh, ON about an hour northwest of Toronto, where he is currently prepping to open for visitors on the Family Day weekend.
“It can start anytime after mid-February. And, you know, March is generally the month people associate, I can tell you there was light runs of sap in in mid-January this year with the temperatures,” he says. “But to get a run like this, it’s the earliest we’ve had at our farm.”
Ontario maple producers are emerging from one of their most challenging years in recent memory. However, the onset of unseasonably warm temperatures at the beginning of the year turned the maple tree taps on early and it could mean multiple runs this year that would help producers.
Elliott turns his farm into a maple syrup experience and the general public is welcome to purchase tickets for a pancake breakfast, tour the farm and sugarbush and even check out the Ontario Maple Syrup Museum located on the property.
Canada supplies 80 per cent of the maple syrup in the world, and Quebec is the largest producer. But Ontario has its own unique product.
“Ontario maple syrup has a different flavour, just as wine regions produce different tasting wine, Ontario is known as sweet,” Elliott says. “We’re big promoters of Ontario maple syrup because of its uniqueness.”
As farmers, Elliott says they are very aware of the changes in the climate and are concerned.
“We’re monitoring it. If we don’t collect as much syrup this year, then, you know, that’s not good. The climate has an effect on what we do, obviously. And, you know, we’ll just see,” he says. “it’s too early to say for the season right now. But what we do know is, this is a very early run.”
To get more runs during a season, the temperature we need to get colder, especially at night, and some snow might help also. And, according to local weather forecasts, that is supposed to happen as early as next week.
“You only get so many runs,” Elliott says. “This is an early one. Will we go back below (the freezing mark) where we get some more, hopefully. The shorter the season means the less amount of maple syrup.”
The Elliott Tree Farm is open for seven weekends through to April 7 as well as on Family Day and the Monday and Friday of March break.
For more details head to the Elliott Tree Farm website.
For a list of additional sugar shacks in the GTA read this article.