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Mass snowfalls creating problem for Colchester County maple producers

March 21 2015

Ryan Cooke, Truro Daily News
Published on March 18, 2015

Tatamagouce - Jim Bezanson sat at home this winter and watched one storm after another turn his maple stands into an innavigable mess

Now on the cusp of sap season, Bezanson was ready to begin the painstaking process of tapping his 6,500 trees at Swan's Maple Products in the two metres of snow that's fallen this winter.

But then yesterday happened.

As each storm comes and goes, Bezanson, the longtime maple syrup producer, says one thought always passes through his mind.

"Oh Lord... and that's about it."

While the maple season's dates fluctuate every year, to go this far into March without seeing the snow subside is unusual.

"I don't think I've ever seen so much snow," Bezanson said. "It's certainly making things difficult."

All the snow is creating a sticky problem for the syrup producers - they can't reach their trees.

Bezanson was set to begin cutting trails to his trees, beating down the snow with snowmobiles. With thousands of trees to tap, it can take a while.

"With a few guys helping, it can take four or five days to reach them all," he said. "All depends how many times you get stuck."

In Earltown, Scott Whitelaw and Quita Gray are in a similar bind. Last week, with the weather improving, they began heading out on snowshoes to tap trees. With the temperatures above zero, they could almost walk on top of the snow.

Not anymore.

"We can tolerate the snow but only to a certain point," Gray said. "But it's been one after another, after another lately."

Aside from access to the trees, the weather poses another problem. If the trees aren't tapped until late March, the producers face the possibility of warmer April temperatures impeding on the process. For sap to run smoothly, the trees need warm days paired with cold, crisp nights.

"I know it's a terrible thing to wish for, but hopefully we get a colder April," she laughed. "Most people won't want to hear that, but we ask you please keep us little old maple producers in mind."

While the snow may be a pain in the neck, Bezanson isn't worrying just yet. He's been in the business long enough to know worst years have started out better, and better years have started out worse.

"The sap will come. We were up in arms a few years ago when we couldn't get taps in the trees until March 29. But then it flowed for 14 straight days. The sap will come."

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