In his 17 years as owner and sole sugar maker at Wild Hill Maple in Salem, Brian Ducharme has learned the only constant is change.

"You understand that when you start doing this, that you're at the whims of Mother Nature," said Ducharme. "So you gotta just roll with what's going on and enjoy it."

Typically, sap starts flowing from his 5,500 maple trees between mid-February and mid-March, but this season, Ducharme said he had to begin tapping in January.

"It's not freezing as much as the tree needs to and it's not healthy for the tree and it's also giving us lesser sugar content," said Ducharme. "We have to process it a lot more. So it costs us a lot more to make the syrup and a lot more work."

The sugar content has gone from an average of 2% to 1.5%.

"It's just like anything if you took a quarter amount of your profit out and kept the same amount of work that you had to do, that's pretty much what it's doing to us right now," said Ducharme.

Since most maple syrup is produced in Canada, they control the market price. The recent weather challenges facing farms in New York haven't spread farther north, so while production costs are up, Ducharme said it's sugar shacks like the one he and his partner Julie Ryan run that end up losing out.

While ups and downs are par for the course, Ryan has tracked as the sugar content has progressively gotten worse over the last six or seven years. She said she hasn't seen sugar content at 2% in years.

Some sugar makers as close as an hour south are seeing even more severe drops.

Wild Hill Maple has begun selling in bulk to help those sugar makers meet demand.

"What we're worried about is how fast this temperature change is going to progress," said Ducharme. "It seems like it's progressing, so we have no idea of how it's going to impact us in the future, only that it's not going to be good."

Each year, 1,200 gallons of syrup are used to create their confections, and they've said they've yet to have an issue meeting customer demand.

"We sell a lot of candy; we sell a lot of the other product, too," said Ryan.

Even after tapping season ends, the sugar house is able to stay open year-round, staying busy with product sales and educational tours. Ducharme and Ryan say it's an indication that while they may be at the mercy of Mother Nature, their hard work pays off.

"We love to have the people here, and we love to educate them [about] the products that we make and how we make it," said Ryan.