, Derry, New Hampshire

March 21, 2013

The sap is running

Maple syrup producers anticipate a good season

By Julie Huss

---- — The smell hits visitors right away.

Anyone visiting a working sugarhouse might say nothing says New Hampshire this time of the year quite like fresh maple syrup.

Longtime Londonderry syrup producer Hank Peterson loves to teach visitors how he creates his product at his tiny Peabody Row sugarhouse.

This season has been a good one, the 80-year-old reported.

With only 60 gallons of syrup produced last year, Peterson said, he hopes to make about 125 gallons this year. With 800 taps located all over the area, the veteran syrup maker said weather conditions have been favorable.

“It all depends on the temperature,” he said. “We need warm temperatures during the day and then need it to dip below freezing at night. It’s all up to Mother Nature. But, so far, it’s been good.”

Some days last week were a bit too chilly for the sap to run and boiling was limited, Peterson said. But last weekend the sap was running and sugar-makers were busy boiling.

Peterson, a Wisconsin native, learned his trade from his own father. Carrying on the tradition and history of the process is important, he said.

Local school groups and Scout troops often visit Peterson’s sugarhouse to watch him collect the sap, boil it down and then bottle the syrup to sell to his faithful customers. Children often get a tasty sample as part of their visit.

“It’s tradition,” Peterson said. “We teach them a little bit about the history. They don’t realize that the sap that comes out of a tree makes the maple syrup.”

Younger maple producers are also making their mark by bottling syrup and learning all about the process.

Forestry/environmental students at Pinkerton Academy have been making their own maple syrup for years, offering tours to local children and selling their finished product to school staff members.

About two dozen students have been working in Pinkerton’s makeshift sugar house in a former greenhouse building, boiling the sap they collect from about 150 tapped trees in the area.

Career and Technical teacher Michelle Mize oversees the syrup production. A new sugarhouse is part of Pinkerton’s Career and Technical Education facility update plan.

“We’re thrilled with our greenhouse setup,” Mize said. “It’s working really well.”

Students take on all aspects of syrup production right down to the boiling and bottling.

Mize said this season is shaping up to be better than the last.

“So far so good,” she said. “The sap is running pretty well.”

Maple syrup lovers around the state can visit operating sugarhouses and learn all about the process from tree to bottle during the New Hampshire Maple Producers Association’s annual maple weekend March 23 and 24. Visit for a list of participating sugarhouses and other information.