The success of one multi-million-dollar industry in our region often comes down to the weather.

And while blowing snow may be shutting down local roads, snow cover could mean protection for sensitive maple trees in the sugar bush.

Some of the first maple trees were tapped in Hawkestone Feb. 8, 2014, marking the official start to the maple syrup season. 

“We're hoping for a good year because every sign is there,” says maple syrup producer Gilbert Desrochers from Lafontaine. “We've got cold weather and lots of snow and it's still nice and cold for February.”

Desrochers says producers hope it doesn't get too warm during the day and count on a good frost at night.

“If it doesn't freeze at night you're not going to get any sap,” he says.

Getting a good start is critical, but even with past successes predicting what the season will be like is difficult.

“The last two years have been good,” says David DeVillers, president the Simcoe and District Maple Syrup Producers Association. “Three years ago we had that warm spell that went up to 20C for about a week and that killed the season.”

John Cameron remembers that year well.

“On March 21, it was 20C, which was crazy for March,” he says.

Cameron has all his equipment in place and has already spent hours in his sugar bush checking the lines. But he says it's been a challenge getting ready.

“This year because the wind was so strong the snow blew further in the bush than it's ever done and the main lines, the collection lines, are at this end of the bush so they're actually under snow,” he says. “It's the first time that's happened.”

Other producers are hoping the heavy snow will work to their advantage, however.

“With all this snow it should actually give us a good season,” says DeVillers. “Because we have lots of moisture the snow will act like insulation.”

With the season just a few weeks away, many people are hoping it will be another good year.

“The spin off effect is incredible and it employs young people and solidifies the strength of our economic base with our small businesses,” says Simcoe North MPP Garfield Dunlop.

But Cameron is counting on things wrapping up in a reasonable amount of time because he's already making plans for the spring: “I would like it to be over by April 5 because I'm going to the Masters.”

Producers say the ideal conditions for maple syrup production are when the temperatures go between 5C and -5C. That's when the sap really starts flowing.

Of course with that starting in a couple of weeks, lots of festivals come along too.


Brooks Farms Maple Sugar Festival - Mount Albert
Weekends from the end of February to the beginning of April
Weekdays for pre-booked school and group tours

Horton Tree Farms Sugar Bush Festival – Stouffville
Open mid-March through mid-April
Open to families on weekend and pre-booked groups of all ages on weekdays and weekends

Kortright Centre for Conservation (Woodbridge)
Bruce's Mill Conservation Area (Stouffville)
March 2 until April 10
Toronto and Region Conservation Authority maple syrup festival

Orangeville Optimist Maple Syrup Festival
Island Lake Conservation Area, Orangeville
March 29

Spring Tonic Maple Festival
Tiffin Conservation Area
April 5 and 6

Annual Elmvale Maple Syrup Fest
April 26