The mild winter has Michigan’s maple sugar producers keeping a close watch on their trees.
Larry Haigh’s family has been making maple syrup since 1958 on their farm near Bellevue, northeast of Battle Creek.
"Some of the soft maples and those in people's yards and along the roads may have started to bud," Haigh says. "And when the buds come out, it changes the sugar content and carbohydrates in the sap, and it doesn't make good syrup."
Haigh's family tapped 1,000 trees on Feb. 15 and 16 -- two weeks earlier than usual. He says they're about halfway through their production.
He says it takes about 35 gallons of condensed sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. He says last year was an exceptional year: Their business produced 418 gallons; 300 gallons is an average year.
They can make about five gallons of finished syrup an hour.
Haigh says America's appetite for pure maple syrup is increasing.
"It's a very nutritious product," Haigh says. "It has a much better nutrient value than, say, cane or beet sugar. It is a natural sweetener, and the market has really been expanding."
He says his business sells a lot of its maple syrup, maple candy and maple creme at the Maple Syrup Festival in Vermontville. This year's event will be held April 27-29. Haigh says he also sells his products at farmers markets.
Haigh, who is also president of the Michigan Maple Syrup Association, says Michigan has a $5 million dollar maple syrup industry. The trade group has about 200 members. He says Gov. Rick Snyder just proclaimed March "Pure Michigan Maple Syrup Month.
"I worked very hard to get that one," Haigh says.
He says exports to Asia and other foreign markets are growing.
Michigan is one of 16 states and provinces in North America where maple syrup is produced.
More information: mi-maplesyrup.com