An Iconic Vermont Industry, At Risk – Vermont News

An Iconic Vermont Industry, At Risk – Vermont News

This article was originally published in the Addison County Independent. 

ADDISON COUNTY — Earlier this week, in the hills of Starksboro and Huntington, wind whipped audibly through Hillsboro Sugarworks’ 15,000 sugar maples. Light rain tapped on the roof of the 1979 sugarhouse and dripped onto the ground. Sue Folino, co-owner of the operation with her husband, Dave, eyed the quivering trees warily.

“It’s days like this that can rip the forest apart,” she said.

Although it’s been a good sugaring season for the Folinos so far, days characterized by unpredictably strong winds and uncharacteristically high temperatures cause the Folinos worry about climate change, and how it might affect sugarmaking in the years ahead.

“I’m worried about climate change already existing,” Dave said, sitting beside a hulking evaporator in the sugarhouse.

“We have huge downpours almost every summer that have the ability to cause erosion, or wash out roads, or do quite a bit of damage. The other thing that seems to be happening a lot more since, maybe the year 2000, is high, high winds, and a tremendous amount of wind damage. I think they’re the first warning shots already hitting us that didn’t used to occur as often.”

The Folinos are not alone. More than 50 percent of sugarmakers are concerned about climate change, according to a study by UVM Extension and SUNY’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Out of 252 survey respondents, 44 percent have seen increased wind damage to trees, 39 percent are tapping earlier, and 21 percent have seen a decline in the health of their maples. Experts…

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