28 Feb 2023

Real Maine Member Q & A: Maple Season

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“No two days are alike” when sap is running at Nutkin Knoll Farm in Newburgh

We had a conversation with Len Price of Real Maine member Nutkin Knoll Farm in Newburgh about being a maple producer during their peak time of year.

Nutkin Knoll Farm was established nearly 200 years ago. During their ownership over the past 35 years, Price’s family has managed the woodlot and fields for maple syrup, Christmas trees, and other balsam fir products. Nutkin Knoll was recognized as Maine’s Outstanding Tree Farm in 2005. He said, “extensive flower, vegetable and fruit gardens; livestock; and woodlot harvest for personal use sustain the farm.”

What is a typical day like during the time that sap is running?

Maple tree sap starts to move in late winter, due to air temperature swings above and below freezing. Our 2000-plus tapped maple trees’ sap flow signals spring’s kickoff. Nature dictates the sweet maple season rhythm. As the sun climbs higher in the sky daily, and when the air temperature swings cooperate, Maple sap can be harvested. Sap flow intensity varies with the daily temperatures.

No two days are alike, but they are all very busy with the previous day’s sap flow. In the past, our sap was collected from 800 metal buckets. These have been replaced by miles of a modern maple sap tubing collection system. This brings sap to a central collection point in the woods to be pumped back for processing into syrup in our wood-fired evaporator. Maple sap, with about 2% natural sugars, must be concentrated mechanically by heating to maple syrup’s concentration of 67% sugar. Nothing is added – only water is removed for sap to become syrup. It’s a simple equation to make pure Maine maple syrup but requires a lot of work!

Besides syrup, what other maple products are made at your business?

Pure maple cream and candy, maple cotton candy, maple popcorn, and maple-coated peanuts. Customers all have their favorites!

What is something Mainers might not know about producing syrup?

A lot of sap is needed to make a little syrup. Forty to 50 gallons of sap will end up as only one gallon of syrup. And a maple tree tapped for sap must be about 50 years old to be large enough. Each tree tap typically yields 10 gallons of sap per season.

What can visitors expect at Nutkin Knoll Farm on Maine Maple Sunday® weekend?

We look forward to seeing old friends and making new friends during the weekend. For over 25 years, we have hosted thousands of visitors for the celebration. Activities include sugarbush tours, sap house tours, free samples of maple products, and pure maple items for sale. Besides viewing how maple products are made, customers enjoy visiting the barnyard animals, as well as hiking the groomed trails and savoring the smells, sights, and sounds of this unique New England season. We hope customers are inspired to tap their maple trees and do their own “sugaring” in their backyard. We welcome visitors to join us and enjoy the sweet taste of spring in Maine.