Farm News May 2012

Greetings from Australia!

Article by Tim Hescock, Vermont Trade Winds Farm

All across the state of Vermont sugarmakers seem to all but disappear in late April, following the end of the maple season. They go any place, as long as that place has no maple trees or sap to boil, and preferably includes a big, soft bed. This year that certainly was the case for this sugarmaker. I probably didn't deserve a trip away given this year's maple season was so short, but a trip to visit my brother in Australia had been planned for many months.

In early May, I landed in Australia and to my surprise found myself surrounded by maple trees. It seemed my brother had settled in the one part of Australia, in fact the one TOWN in Australia, that has sugar maple trees. The irony here for myself and my fellow Vermont brother was quite obvious, though my brother claims it was the job and not the maple trees in their full autumn colors that brought him here.

Autumn and Winter in Australia...really!

Since it is in the southern hemisphere the weather and season's are turned upside down. Our Winter becomes their Summer and our Spring becomes their Autumn. So if you plan your visit in May like I did, yes there is an Autumn in Australia. The entire town of Bright, Victoria was full of brilliant red and orange leaves. In this southern mountainous region Autumn is actually followed by Winter. Occasionally it snows at my brother's house and there is frequent snowfalls at the nearby mountain ski resorts.


Is Australia an "untapped" maple resource?

Technically it might be possible to tap these sugar maple trees - temperatures did drop below freezing one night during my visit - one of the criteria for maple sap flow and maple syrup production. But a few cold nights would probably produce only a fraction of what is required for commercial maple syrup production. Without real long, hard freezes it is also unclear how sweet the sap collected would be. Also, considering only a small number of Australians have pancakes for breakfast, this one town's maple resource is likely going to remain "untapped"!