There are some wonderful things about our early spring. But it hasn't been good for everybody — especially not Minnesota's maple syrup producers.
One by one, Jeff Edelen pulls empty milk jugs off the sugar maples near his house in Forest Lake. He tosses them into a trailer attached to his three-wheeler. Of Edelen's 200 taps, this cluster is always the last to produce sap.
"Even these did pretty poor this year," Edelen said.
In order for their sap to run, maple trees need temperatures to fluctuate between warm days and freezing nights. This year, Minnesota barely saw any runs like that. And then, a couple weeks ago, buds appeared on the trees.
"Once that starts happening, the sap production's over," Edelen explained. "It was a rough season. It just got so warm so fast, and stayed warm ,that you got what you could get."
Edelen got about seven gallons. Normally he would make close to 20. He doesn't sell syrup. Mostly, he just gives it away.
"I'm not going to be able to do that this year. I have to apologize to people, because I'm not giving them what I have in previous years," Edelen said. "There's not any syrup to go around for Christmas this year, because I've got to have some for myself. I do have a lot of money wrapped up in this."
For Edelen, syrup is just a hobby, but his experience mirrors what happened to many commercial producers across the upper Midwest.
Sap is still flowing in parts of northern Minnesota, and producers there are hoping to hit their production targets. On the whole, though, industry groups in both Minnesota and Wisconsin say this has been the worst maple syrup year anyone can remember.
Some sugarbushes, as they're called, saw as little as one-tenth of their normal production. But that doesn't necessarily mean a price spike is coming. There is inventory left over from 2011, which brought a bumper crop.
Plus, more than 70 percent of the world's syrup comes from Quebec. Unlike in most of Minnesota, the harvest there is still underway.