Maple Syrup

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Logging samples of maple syrup. Photo: Kurt Preissler

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. 

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