#314 Flip-Flop News


Hello again Maple People,

Jeez…the respect I'm not gettin' these days would make Rodney Dangerfield appear upbeat! It all started with one of our local TV stations, the NBC affiliate, coming to our farm (and I don't even recall that it was this year) and interviewing me about our sugar season. At the time of that interview, sugarin' was suffering from nights that were not quite cold enough for good sap runs, a temporary sluggishness common to sugar seasons just about every year. They used my words "not quite cold enough at night" along with some positive points about our sugar season, on the local six o'clock news.

Recently I got an email from a friend saying that I had been on Nightly News with Brian Williams. Her words, "you were part of a story about global warming" brought both disbelief and thoughts of our recent frigid winter, a winter that lasted so long it drastically shortened our sugar season! "It couldn't have been me" I thought…they never came to Morse Farm. When I Googled my name and NBC News though, sure enough, I was led to a transcript which had "Vermont maple farmer Burr Morse" seemingly supporting the idea of global warming with his words, "not quite cold enough at night"!

Still wondering how those folks pulled it off, the next day I got a call from a reporter. "Just checkin' this story on NBC News last night" he said. "Is it true that Vermont maple sugaring is disappearing because of global warming?" Quicker'n an evaporator a'fire, I assured him that, although we had a marginal season at our place, mostly because of weather that was too cold, many sugarmakers had an excellent one. "In fact", I said, "Vermont sugaring is expanding these days because of technology and a favorable maple economy.". I also expressed pint-sized dismay that NBC had twisted things in my name like they did to fit their headline.

I would soon learn that our national news setup includes a "spy versus spy" component. The "main stream" media is countered by an outfit called CSN News, a blog that serves to disprove stories put out by the national news organizations. The reporter who had called me was from CSN and he got from me just what he wanted when I said cold weather had been our major problem this last season but that we did have a period when nights were not cold enough. "'Cold' means 'hot' to NBC News" shouted the headline. The story portrayed me as hopping mad with NBC News but I was more just disappointed.

To add insult to injury, on the third day, I got a call from a New York Times reporter whose purpose seemed to be to check on the CSN guy. Still not knowing enough to keep my maple mouth shut, my response to his questions went something like this:

NYT: "So, I heard NBC got it all wrong."

BM: "Nope"

NYT: "I'm confused…didn't you say your season was too cold?"

BM: "Yup, when twern't too warm."

I sensed his frustration but was darned if I'd give him what he wanted. Instead, I gave him an accurate "snapshot" of sugarin's need for the perfect mix of freezing and thawing and wind direction, something only understood by a maple sugarmaker. Our interview ended quickly just like a bad sugar season…the New York Times reporter had no use for my description in the language of "maple".

Now for the record in my own non-spun language: No doubt some of my fellow sugarmakers are upset with me for ever talking to the press, a press that might send out a false report that Vermont maple sugaring is in decline. If our climate is changing (and, yes, I do see indications that it is), it certainly has not had a long term affect on maple sugaring yet. The news has every right to question it if they do so in a fair and accurate way. I will warn them, though, they best question Vermont maple sugarmakers carefully 'cause, we speak the language of "maple" and thrive on weird weather.

And that's the way it is,


PS: We're on to a new season. Tom and I have been planting 1000 Canaan and Fraser Fir Christmas trees…lots to do on a diversified Vermont farm. And speaking of things "green", our maple trees are fully leaved out and looking good! It's a long time till next sugarin' but no worry…we've got plenty of syrup in all four grades here at morsefarm.com. In fact, we're canning syrup today and the best part of canning syrup is having to taste it…tough job I have!


Related Articles