Maple Producer 2020 Season Highlight – Mapleland Farms

2020 has been a year of challenges and changes for most of the world, as Covid-19 reshapes how we interact on a daily basis with others. While being out in the woods can help remove yourself from some of that stress, producers of all kinds have had to react to changing markets and sales in the face of economic downturns and upswings this year. For maple producers, Covid-19 is just another challenge to tackle, as the weather is the main fickle and unpredictable part of the business. Mapleland Farms (MLF), a maple producer in Salem, NY, with over 18,000 taps and hundreds of acres to manage, the 2020 season has been about adapting to new market conditions and keeping up with a growing woodlot. “Covid-19 has certainly changed what we’re selling the most of right now,” said Dave Campbell, co-owner of MLF. “Liquid Syrup sales are up for home delivery, and candy sales are down because restaurants and other businesses have been closed up. That’s starting to change as businesses reopen and place orders again. Covid-19 has changed the way that we’ve been marketing our product for the past few months quite a bit. We’re lucky that we’re diversified enough in different markets that we’ve been able to adjust and keep moving products, unlike some other producers that may only have a retail operation for their own products that have had to shut down.

Beyond Covid-19, MLF has dealt with a changing mark for when the season begins due to weather fluctuations. “We started the earliest ever for us this year,” said Campbell. “We made syrup on the 12th of January. We’ve had more wind and tree damage this past year than normal as well. The vacuum that we were drawing on our lines to get the sap from the trees was lower than normal at the beginning of the season due to all of the damage. Once we repaired the lines though, the vacuum levels held up for the season, and the taps stayed clean throughout what was a longer and more drawn out season than normal. Overall the season’s crop was down from the last couple of years though. The sugar content was lower than average even though we handled just about the same volume of sap as normal.

This was also MLF’s third season as a NY Grown and Certified producer. “It’s not something that we did to grow our brand, people pretty much already knew who we are,” said Campbell. “But I think it’s important to make consumers aware of what a quality brand does to be considered NY Grown and Certified, and that it show that we’re taking care of our woods and waste water in the right ways. This year we’ve actually been talking with NY Audubon to develop a pilot program to create bird friendly woodlots. They came out last summer to scout one of our woodlots and again surveyed it during the winter. We haven’t heard much about the progress on the project currently, but we’re excited to be part of it. They were pleased with the diversity of birds that they found on our woodlot.

For those that are interested in scaling up, Campbell had some tips. “It’s taken us a lifetime to develop our marketing,” said Campbell. “You have to look at how to do things efficiently if you’re going to try and sell in bulk. Quebec had a record crop up there this year and they make 80% of the world supply, so there’s a lot of bulk on the market driving prices down right now. If you take the time to invest in making value added products and can find a market for it, there’s a lot more profit in that end of the business.”

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