It’ll be awhile yet before the tractors and planters hit the Iowa fields, but the harvest of one crop — maple syrup– is already well underway. Rich Patterson is part of the harvest the Indian Creek Nature Center near Cedar Rapids. He says of all agricultural and forest crops, maple syruping is the earliest. You don’t need to buy large equipment to harvest this crop though, just some taps and buckets.
Patterson says they put out about 250 taps on different maple trees. Last he says they had about 55 gallons of syrup in what he says was a very good year, with their average 25 to 30 gallons of syrup. Patterson says the changing weather patterns are important to having a good sap season. He says the conditions needed are cold frosty nights down in the 20’s followed by warm sunny days in the 40’s. Patterson says the sap flow stops when temperatures get above freezing at night.
Iowa had an unusually warm January. Patterson isn’t sure how that might impact the syrup production.
He says they don’t know how it will impact the crop and he says even old-time sugar makers in the east can’t say how it will impact the syrup production. Patterson says they have a sugar house modeled after one in New Hampshire in which they boil down the sap into syrup. He says the sugar making process is open to the public.
Patterson says if you drive by and see steam coming out of the sugar house, that means they’re making syrup and you’re welcome to come in. He says they’ll have programs that run through March and the annual syrup festival is the first weekend in March. Patterson says the maple syrup industry was once vital in Iowa, but there are just a few sugar houses remaining now.