Inflation causes sticky situation for some maple farmers as tapping season comes to an end

Inflation causes sticky situation for some maple farmers as tapping season comes to an end

Demand for maple syrup grew significantly during the pandemic when more people were cooking at home and experimenting with other products. But inflation is prompting some maple farmers to raise the price of their products for the first time in years

The rising price of everything from equipment to fuel is forcing some maple farmers and producers to pass costs along to customers. 

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Maple syrup tapping season, which typically starts around mid-February or March is about to come to a close. The season usually only lasts four to five weeks since it relies on temperatures being above freezing during the day and below freezing at night. 

Kirk Hedding hammers a tap into one of his maple trees in Chelsea, Mich. (Fox News)

Kirk Hedding is a maple farmer and president of the Michigan Maple Syrup Association. He lives on a family farm that’s been around for generations. Sixteen years ago, his family realized it could use the trees on the property for something sweet.

"My wife and I were the very first ones to ever make maple syrup on the farm," said Hedding, whose maple farm in Chelsea, Michigan, about 20 miles west of Ann Arbor, is called H&H Sugarbush.

A sign at H&H Sugarbush. (Fox News )

In 2008, Hedding and his wife started their maple syrup production hobby with ten taps on buckets. Now, the farm has taps on nearly 2,000 trees. The tap extracts sap, which is turned into maple products. The Heddings make syrup, sugar, butter and candy. Their products are used for coffee and tea, baking, grilling and basically anything that requires sugar.

Maple syrup from H&H Sugarbush in Chelsea, Mich. (Fox News / Fox News)

"It’s healthier than most generic sweeteners because it’s not highly processed and actually has some good nutrients in it as well," said North American Maple Syrup Council Executive Director Winton Pitcoff.

The machine that boils down sap and evaporates water to turn Hedding’s tree sap into maple syrup and sugar. (Fox News)

Demand for maple syrup grew during the pandemic when more people were cooking at home and experimenting with other products.

"They were particularly interested in natural products and locally grown products, so maple syrup was a very popular item over the past couple of years," said Pitcoff.

In fact, Hedding says the pandemic increased demand 20%. But, inflation forced the farm to do something it was hoping to avoid.

Sap drips from a maple tree.  (Fox News)

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"We actually had to raise our prices for the first time in about ten years," Hedding said.

Now, a gallon of maple syrup from H&H Sugarbush costs $6 more than it did a month ago. Pitcoff says inflation struggles are felt throughout the maple syrup industry. 

"It’s been a challenging time economically for the industry," said Pitcoff.

Pitcoff says getting supplies like jugs has been a problem, as well as the cost of equipment. But fuel prices have been the biggest issue.  

Hedding collects sap.  (Fox News / Fox News)

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Fuel prices are hurting businesses "whether you’re using gas-powered equipment in the woods to tap trees or (using) trucks to deliver sap or with trucks to deliver the final product to consumers," Pitcoff said.

It’s the smaller family maple farms that are getting hit hardest by rising costs and have to raise their prices the most, he added.

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