It’s been bothering me since the close of this year’s maple harvest that I haven't put pen to paper and cataloged the results of maple season 2022. There are a few reasons for this, but mostly because there really isn’t anything striking to say about this year’s harvest. Some in my family would say that this is a good thing because the season just flowed (no pun intended). 2022's maple season was a return to normalcy with a crop that was almost exactly our 7-year average, tallying in at 6,994 gallons produced, compared to the average of 6,935.
Maple Syrup Production
Certainly, this was a good year in both quantity and quality. You may remember reading that 2021 was one of the worst years that we’ve had since 2012. Those two years represented low points in production and points to the power of Mother Nature and the finality of her decision to close the season early, whether we're ready or not.
The quality of the syrup was just as good as any other year, and I would say it was a “Dark Robust” year. We made more of this grade of maple syrup than any other, which is ok because it typically tracks as our second most popular grade behind Amber Rich Taste. Beloved as a choice table syrup for a bit more bold palate presence, we’ve also been filling a lot of bottles for gifts since the close of the season. Amber Rich and Golden Delicate taste syrup were our rarest grades, but we should be able to stretch our supplies until next season.
There were no exciting equipment purchases that highlighted the season like the reverse osmosis machine we purchased in 2021. What we did find after looking at the data, was that in a more "normal" year the new reverse osmosis machine saved a lot of labor and energy use. This was found to be true not only in fuel oil to run the evaporator but also in electrical usage. With a more normal season, I expected the light bill to be higher than it was in 2020 or 2019 prior to the new purchase; however, it was noticeably lower. By our calculations, we saved about 0.10 kilowatts per gallon of maple syrup produced when comparing the data year to year.
More interesting to me, and providing a greater impact to lowering our carbon footprint was the savings in fuel oil that powers our evaporator. Our machine burns approximately 12 gallons of fuel oil per hour. Last year being a below-average year made it a bit harder to bank on what the potential savings might be. This year, however, the return to a typical year really allowed us to compare and contrast the numbers more effectively. Comparing the similar years of 2022 and 2016 demonstrates stark savings in hours boiled, 156 and 247, respectively. Calculated for the average fuel burn per hour that's 1,872 and 2,964 gallons, or a reduction of 1,092 gallons in fuel oil burned that can be directly attributed to a more efficient reverse osmosis machine.
But wait, there's more! The savings hardest to quantify are the savings in time. When you compare the two similar seasons of 2016 and 2022 and realize 37% fewer hours were spent boiling you know you’ve won. Like a lot of maple farms, ours is run by family members. Family members who are overworked and overtired, exerting maximum energy to process sap into syrup in a timely manner. Add to this the vigilance required to make sure the sap lines aren't leaking, constant cleaning, and record-keeping, then you have a recipe for short fuses. Now I’ll have to take back what I said about nothing striking standing out during maple season 2022, the high spirits and civility stood out most of all.
We even had some unexpected visitors over the course of the season. We were excited to host team members from Beta Technologies, a Vermont aerospace company revolutionizing flight through electric aircraft. They even showed up in a few helicopters and we shared our enthusiasm for sustainability.
Levon, who manages our sugarbush began a renovation of the sugarwoods across from the house as soon as the season came to a close. Tubing used to harvest sap deteriorates over time and needs replacing about every decade. We're on the 12th year with this tubing and it was well time to invest in an upgrade. As tubing ages, it breaks down and requires more care and attention to prevent leaks and maintain the level of production you expect, taking you away from other pressing matters during the sugar season. This job was an extensive overhaul that required him to haul many 1000's feet of old lines out of the woods and rebuild new lines from scratch. We're excited to see the difference this new woods will bring in the coming season.