Sugar shacks battle unpredictable conditions

  • Maple Row Sugaring owner Scott Kemp planned to boil 800 gallons of sap for Maple Weekend. —COURTESY OF SCOTT KEMP

  • Despite this winter’s unpredictable conditions, Babel’s Sugar Shack in Mason is experiencing a record-high season, producing 156 gallons of maple syrup. —COURTESY OF PAULA BABEL

  • Loading up the stove for a boil at Sawyer Farm in Jaffrey last week. —PHOTO BY GEORGE CARMICHAEL

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 3/17/2023 9:30:29 AM

The Monadnock region is getting a little sweeter, thanks to the adaptability of local maple producers. 

Weather conditions in the region during maple season have been uncertain and unstable. The cold winds and below-freezing temperatures that gripped the region in early February, mixed with warm temperatures in March, have forced small maple producers in the region to install more taps and be patient with the process of boiling sap into syrup. In most cases, the ratio of sap to syrup is 40:1, meaning the average yield is a mere 2 to 2 1/2 percent.

Despite the unpredictable conditions, Babel’s Sugar Shack in Mason is experiencing an unprecedented season. According to co-owner Paula Babel, Babel’s Sugar Shack installed 100 new taps and produced a record-high 156 gallons of sweet maple syrup, a 44-gallon increase compared to last season. 

Babel said she attributes part of her success this season to New England’s warming winters. 

“We are on track for a great season,” said Babel. “The sap is just easier to access when the ground isn’t frozen.”

For Mtn-Gold Maple Mill in Lyndeborough and Maple Row Sugaring in Rindge, February’s freezing temperatures and March’s heavy snowfall have slowed down operations. According to Maple Row Sugaring owner Scott Kemp, this year’s boil yielded 83 gallons of syrup, a 30-gallon decrease compared to last year.  Despite the setbacks, Kemp said he’s attempting to make a major comeback and beat last year’s numbers.  

“This season has been kind of funky. I don’t think anyone suspected 36 inches of snow,” said Kemp, referring to Tuesday’s snowstorm. “But we keep growing and right now, we are looking pretty good.”

For small maple producers like Babel’s Sugar Shack, Maple Row Sugaring and Mtn-Gold Maple Mill, the job is far from finished. In commemoration of Maple Sugaring Month in New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Maple Producers Association is hosting Maple Weekend March 18 and 19, a two-day event where the public can get a free tour of the local facilities and even try out the product. 

As Maple Weekend approaches, local maple producers in the Monadnock region are working overtime to get ready for an influx of customers eager for a tour of the facilities and a taste of the sweet treats. According to Mtn-Gold Maple Mill co-owner Debra Fogg, Maple Weekend is a world-renowned event. In past years, Fogg has brought in customers from Germany, Australia and New Zealand for a tour of her sugarhouse and a taste of her signature maple syrup.  

Fogg said she looks forward to Maple Weekend because it’s a culmination of everyone’s hard work during the maple season. 

“It’s a joyous time of the season, we always look forward to Maple Weekend because people come from all around the world to see it,” she said.

To find a participating sugarhouse, visit

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