Bottling Coordinator Danielle delivered the official spreadsheet to me, which details gallons of maple syrup produced, and bottles bottled, dating back to 2005. The grand total for 2015 was 84.88 gallons of maple syrup produced, resulting in 1,291 finished 8 oz. bottles, plus 4 gallons set aside for Howell Farm program activities. Farm Director Pete Watson and I both received these results with a certain sense of mixed regret. Nearly 85 gallons is a wonderful haul of syrup—it’s the second best year ever for Howell Farm, losing out only to last year’s record-setting triumph of 88 gallons. But to come so close to breaking the record—falling just 3 gallons short—leaves one with the sense of missing a fantastic opportunity at leaving a historic mark. Surely the 120 gallons of extra sap required to break the record (40 gallons of sap = 1 gallon of finished syrup) could have been squeezed out of the woodwork somewhere—a few more trees along a distant slope, or a few more tap holes, or an extra day or two of late season operations. ‘Bittersweet’ is the only word that comes to mind when summing up the emotions of missing the syruping record by the whisker of a barn cat.
Farmer Jim (who heads the syruping operation) and the rest of us will regroup during the off-season by clinging to a thought that has brought a limited degree of comfort to second-place finishers throughout the ages: Well, there’s always next year.