Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Warmer Winters Makes the Syrup Business Sticky

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Warmer Winters Makes the Syrup Business Sticky

Article excerpt

Has the price of your maple syrup gone up this year? Blame global warming.

"It's a real concern. It really is," said Debby Funk, co-producer of Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup in Shirley, Ill.

The company has been in her husband's family for five generations; their son is the sixth generation. They own about 3,500 natural-growth sugar maple trees on their property a few miles outside of Bloomington.

In most years, those trees produce enough sap to be boiled down to 2,000 gallons of maple syrup. This year, they ended up with just 1,200 gallons.

Syrup depends on the weather. Small holes are drilled into the trees and the sap drips out of them into buckets. But the conditions have to be right.

"What you need for sap flow is a freezing-thawing cycle. Ideally it must get down to the 20s at night and up to the 40s in the day. That change in temperature creates the pressure you need inside the tree to push it out," Funk said.

Generally, that is not a problem, although you won't find the proper temperature conditions much farther south or west of here. But this year, there was trouble. Last year, too.

The sap will flow out of the trees for about three days after a freeze. Then it takes another freeze and another thaw for it to start running again, Funk said.

"What ends the season is what we had this year, a spring of really warm days in the 60s and then up in the 70s for a couple of days," Funk said.

"That causes the buds to swell on the maple trees, and when the buds swell that changes the chemistry of the sap and it becomes bitter. So that's what ends the season."

Fortunately for the company and lovers of maple syrup everywhere, Funk and her husband, Mike, anticipated the unseasonably warm weather.

"We tapped in January this year. We don't usually tap until February, so that kind of saved us. We talked about it after last year, because of the way the climate was changing," she said.

They started tapping the trees in mid-January and ended on Feb. …

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