How weather affects the Maple syrup production in Virginia

Highland County maple syrup production
Aired on WHSV in March, 2015. Eagle Sugar camp in McDowell, Virginia. Highland County
Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 5:09 PM EDT
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DOE HILL, Va. (WHSV) - (This story aired on WHSV in March, 2015)

Highland county is the southernmost maple syrup producer in the country, and it all depends on the weather.

Eagle’s sugar camp, is over 200 years old. The buckets are on the trees, and syrup making is underway.

“We’re tapping roughly 12-thousand trees, roughly 16 thousand taps.” Jay Eagle is a fifth generation sugar farmer, and this is his busiest time of the year.

Just like any farmer, he depends a lot on the weather, for his crop. Eagle says, “Up and down, the freezing and thawing, that is the perfect recipe for maple.”

Sugar farmers need the roller coaster in temperatures for the best production. The sap is running slow right now. The major cold snap in February has slowed production.

Eagle explains how the air pressure changes and the moisture impacts the flow of the sap. “The pressure changes, they will flood, but a rain stalls them”

Once the trees open up, it’s non stop until all the syrup is boiled, graded, and bottled.

“To make maple syrup it takes one drum, or about 55 gallons of sugar water from the tree, to make one gallon, of maple syrup.”

Eagle showed us how this batch looks like a medium grade, which is good because that’s what he is short of.

“Medium is the best seller”. Oh it smells wonderful,” says Eagle.

The maple trees are usually tapped from January to the end of March, but the process to make maple syrup actually begins in the summer as the sun produces the sugar, through the leaf.

For more on the sugar farms in Highland County