Maple production is up in Vermont

VERMONT — A new report from the USDA shows the state’s maple output increased by 7 percent between 2018 and 2019.
Likely accounting for the boost was a 6 percent increase in tap numbers across the state during that time, according to Mark Isselhardt, a maple specialist at UVM’s Proctor Maple Research Center.
Isselhardt said per tap yield was also slightly up, with individual taps producing, on average, close to 1 percent more than the previous year. Additionally, he pointed out that this year’s sap run was sweeter than average, which means that the sap collected can be turned into more syrup than usual.
“Maple is a unique thing,” Isselhardt said. “It involves a natural, non-processed product that comes from continuous forest-covered landscape, and there’s a lot of people getting in on it. It has a lot of potential.”
Isselhardt said that growth is likely concentrated in certain parts of the state. Franklin County produces more syrup than the rest of the state “by quite a bit,” he said, which makes untapped trees harder to find, though they are also the areas where sugarmakers’ work is most focused. Other big areas include Essex and Caledonia counties, he noted.
This season was also about half as long as the one before it. The 2019 season lasted 34 days, while the 2018 season was 52 days. But according to Isselhardt, that doesn’t have much impact on output.
“Season length is kind of an odd measurement,” Isselhardt said. “Sap flow doesn’t follow a very orderly pattern. The bulk of the syrup made any given year comes from relatively few of those days.”
The average per-gallon price of Vermont maple syrup was $45.30 in 2018. Most expensive was Connecticut syrup, at $62.90, while cheapest was Indiana’s $41/gallon syrup. But Isselhardt said that largely has to do with how Vermont is selling its syrup — 87 percent of the state’s sales were bulk, while 4 percent was sold wholesale, and 9 percent sold retail. In Connecticut and Indiana, on the other hand, just 5 percent of sales were bulk.
Vermont, which produces about half of the country’s maple syrup, is the largest producer in the United States, followed by New York and New Hampshire, which together produce less than half as much as Vermont.
Isselhardt noted that the data the USDA uses is all reported voluntarily. He said it’s not always the most accurate, but that they’re the only numbers they have to go on. He said if more maple producers filled out the surveys, the accuracy would improve.
“It’s interesting to see how each season is different, especially in terms of concern about how climate impacts maple production,” Isselhardt said. “For the past two years, it’s been cold, so luckily we haven’t had to be too concerned about high temperature events — but climate matters.”

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