maple syrup

Dustin Bronson

Though often referred to as mud season, the transition from winter to spring also hearkens the arrival of sugaring season in the northwoods. Sugar maples trees—along with a variety of other tree species—are tapped when daytime temperatures rise above freezing and nighttime temperatures fall below freezing. During a good spring the sap may run for as much as a month, or until the daily freeze/thaw cycle ends, or buds burst and leaves begin to develop on the trees.

Natalie Jablonski / WXPR News

Warm weather has drawn people out of their homes for a number of spring activities including one popular Northwoods pastime: tapping trees for maple syrup. As Emily Bright reports, the season has begun, and much earlier than last year.

Maple syrup enthusiasts have been out tapping trees this week, as the warm daytime temperatures and freezing nights make sap start to run. Speaking from the winter farmers’ market, Tonya Hofrichter of Hofrichter farms in Deerbrook says the sap has had a slow start.

Monie Shackleford / WXPR News

Organizers against a mine proposal in northern Wisconsin are looking to maple syrup to provide an economic boost for the region. 

The Lac Courte Oreilles Harvest Camp, also called the HELP Village has maintained a presence in the Penokee Range for almost two years.

Spokesperson Paul DeMain says maple syrup production is a more sustainable alternative to open pit mining. 

“The tapping industry, not just maple but we’re talking about potential yellow and white birch – we’d like to talk about revitalizing that industry.” 

Natalie Jablonski / WXPR News

Maple syrup production in northern Wisconsin is wrapping up for the season.  For small producers a fickle weather pattern meant it wasn’t a great season in terms of syrup quantity.  But for larger producers who use more high-tech systems, it was still an above average year.  And the reasons behind these sap dynamics are still somewhat of a mystery. 

The day I visit Maple Hollow Farm near Merrill Wisconsin is muddy and cool – a typical backdrop for a process that takes place only in spring, when the sap is running.