Young Farmers in Vermont Met with Challenges and Opportunities By Shane Rogers, Farm to Plate Communications Manager at the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund The landscape of farming is changing throughout the country, and Vermont agriculture is by no means an exception. To see this borne out, one only has to look to…
Download 3.3: Maple Syrup (PDF 6MB)
Maple trees are synonymous with Vermont’s landscape, and maple syrup is a key aspect of Vermont’s cultural heritage, identity, and food system economy. Every fall, “leaf peepers” arrive by the thousands to take in the rich reds, oranges, and yellows of the changing season. Throughout Vermont’s history, maple syrup has been an important staple, providing a natural sweetener as well as an additional source of income for many farms. First introduced to the earliest settlers from Native Americans, generations of Vermonters have passed down the art of sugarmaking. Each year, well before the first signs of spring, families with small sugar shacks and commercial-scale producers have tapped groves of maple trees (i.e., sugar bushes) in preparation for winter’s end.
Warm days in Vermont mean muddy roads and sugar on snow – an annual culinary tradition of hot maple syrup and a bowl of snow, served with a pickle and cider donut. Meanwhile, discriminating pancake lovers all over the world enjoy the pure, natural taste of Vermont’s maple syrup year round. Maple syrup production is a significant economic engine for the state with a market value of well over $50 million in 2011.
Vermont is the largest producer of pure maple syrup in the United States; it accounted for 41% (1.1 million gallons) of total U.S. production in 2011. However, U.S. maple syrup production is dwarfed by Canadian production (nearly 10.3 million gallons in 2011), and most Canadian production comes from our neighbors to the north in Quebec.
The Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association has about 900 members estimate that there are about 2,000 commercial operations in Vermont. According to maple industry professionals, about 20% of Vermont’s maple producers generate about 80% of sales. The four primary maple processors in Vermont are Highland Sugarworks (Websterville), Maple Grove Farms of Vermont (St. Johnsbury), Butternut Mountain Farm (Morrisville), and Coombs Family Farms (Brattleboro, but headquartered in New Hampshire). These companies purchase syrup from other Vermont sugar makers, and some produce from their own sugar bushes. Their products are marketed under their own labels as well as private labels. For example, Butternut Mountain Farm’s 70 employees bottle maple syrup, process bulk syrup, produce pure maple candy, and manufacture maple sugar.
Written by Shane Rogers Green Mountain Farm Direct, a food hub run by Green Mountain Farm-to-School, is working to connect local farmers with schools, restaurants, and institutions across northern Vermont to increase the farm’s sales and boost consumption of local food in institutions and the overall region. Those partnerships have created…
Written by Liz Gamache Each spring, many Vermont sugar makers are already looking ahead to producing the next year’s crop and they may be considering what equipment upgrades they’ll need to save time, energy, and money next season. With over 1500 maple sugar makers in the state, Vermont is the largest producer…
Written by Laura Hardie, New England Dairy Promotion Board Karie Thompson Atherton, 35, is the seventh generation to grow up on her family’s dairy farm in Berkshire, Vermont and always knew she wanted to continue the tradition of dairy farming. “There's definitely easier ways to make a living, but none as fulfilling,"…
Written by Jake Claro When you ask people their definition of the Vermont food economy, they’ll often talk about farms, farmers’ markets or CSAs. What’s often missing from the conversation are the supply chain of local businesses such as distributors, food processors and manufacturers, and seed, feed, and equipment dealers. Vermont’s local…
2. Vermont Resources
- Figure 3.3.1: U.S. Maple Syrup Production, 1992-2011 jpg 621K
- Figure 3.3.2: World Maple Syrup Production in Gallons, 2011 jpg 415K
- Figure 3.3.3: Market Value of U.S. Maple Syrup Production, 1992-2011 jpg 449K
- Figure 3.3.4: Vermont Maple Syrup Production by County, 2002 and 2007 jpg 518K