A Sweet Treat: NH Maple Weekend is Coming
As New Hampshire transitions from winter into spring and pandemic restrictions are no longer in effect, weekend events will be back on the radar for many.
One of the early events of the season, Portsmouth Beer Week, is nearly done. Now, a fairly new event, the New Hampshire Maple Producers Association Maple Weekend, is coming up on Saturday, March 18 and Sunday, March 19.
The first Maple Weekend was held in 2019 as an opportunity to visit some of the 365 sugar houses the Association represents for special offers and deals over one weekend. The promotion was outright canceled for 2020, and came back with both the weekend and the month for 2021 so sugar houses weren't overwhelmed. It will have a dual approach again this year.
"It's a chance for people to come out and experience a New Hampshire tradition to see and feel and smell a sugar house in operation," Association president Andrew Chisolm told Seacoast Current.
Chisolm said that it's also an opportunity for sugar houses to show off some of their more unique products and make an event of it.
"We have sugar makers that will have much more than just maple sugar going on. There'll be samples, of course, of all the maple sugaring. There's some sugar houses that give away free ice cream and free donuts. Some of them have pancake breakfasts," Chisolm said.
New Hampshire Overshadowed by Vermont
Chisholm admitted that while New England has a deep history of maple sugar production, New Hampshire is not the first state one thinks of when it comes to maple sugar. But, the state nonetheless has an important role in developing maple syrup as a product.
"One of our early governors in 1720 was the first governor of the new colonies to send a sample of maple sugar back to England because he was so impressed with the product," Chisholm said. "I'm not sure Vermont got involved with that."
He said that there is also a difference between New Hampshire and Vermont syrup in the sweetness.
"Traditionally, there's more sugar maples in Vermont. If you were to take a map and look at the sugar content that's coming out of trees in the sugar producing region of New England, Vermont happens to have a very sweet spot where the sugar content is much higher than it is in New Hampshire," Chisholm said.
The red maples of New Hampshire produce a darker syrup, especially in southern areas of the state, while Vermont's had more of a light, golden color.
Staffing and Supply Chain Issues and the Pandemic
Chisolm said that the New Hampshire maple syrup industry has faced the same staffing issues as other industries, but has overcome the challenges in their own way. Supply chain issues have presenting issues for larger farms that package up their product.
"We package our product into bottles and containers, and we have a huge problem getting containers into the sugar producer's hands. That's been a challenge since the beginning of the pandemic. We're starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel on that, but there's going to be challenges with supply issues into the future," Chisolm said.
Another issue is a generational one that much of the agriculture industry faces, in which younger family members are not interested in taking over the family business. Chisolm said one good thing that has come out of the pandemic is people trying their hand at maple sugaring.
"We saw a dramatic increase of hobby sugar makers come out of the woodwork. That looks like it has some of the younger generation that might have a little bite under them to maybe pursue something a little more substantial in the sugaring industry," Chisolm said.