Maple syrup season off to a late start in Merrill - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Maple syrup season off to a late start in Merrill

MERRILL (WAOW) - Pancake lovers might be getting antsy for the maple syrup season to begin.

Because this bitter winter has lasted longer than expected, syrup farmers are getting a late start.

"We sell maple equipment to a lot of maple producers in the Midwest, and many of them are getting very anxious about the season," said Joe Polak, owner of Maple Hollow Farms.

Long winters concern him, but despite the cold, he and his employees have kept busy preparing for the warmer weather.

"We start tapping our trees in mid-February. We're currently tapping about 10,000," Polak said.

Maple Hollow Farms uses what Polak calls a "closed system" of several miles of tubing to extract sap from the trees. The tubes ensure that frigid temperatures don't ruin their potential crop.

"If you tap too soon with sap sacks or sack buckets, that hole actually starts to dry out, and the tree heals over so you would get less production," said Polak.

Even with the tubes in place, Maple Hollow needs the weather to turn.

"It's already starting to run a little bit so that's good, but we want everything to start running like a sieve," said Jordan Shelley, an employee.

But Polak says it's not time to start panicking just yet.

"If you have enough gray hair and you can remember that far back, this is normal," he said. "When I was a kid, we didn't even start tapping trees until between the 15 and 20 of March."

As a third generation maple farmer, he's been doing this a long time.

"If you've been on the same property all your life, you get to know the trees. We almost have them named, but not quite," Polak said.

Farmers say they expect the weather to improve in the next week or two, which would give them a couple weeks of pumping time.
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