How Climate Change Is Impacting Vermont’s Maple Sugar Industry


Published:

With production values totaling US$59.7 million in 2016, maple is big business in the state of Vermont. In spite of its population of about 623,000 people, Vermont is the largest producer of syrup in the United States. Its maple sugar output makes up more than 40 percent of the country’s total market share.

The industry has a direct and significant impact on Vermont’s economy. Maple is the state’s fourth-largest value-added agricultural export. The sector pays somewhere between 2,735 and 3,169 full-time employees and many more part-time seasonal jobs, totaling more than US$140 million in wages.

The maple industry “employs many people in the state from backyard sugaring, selling to your neighbors, all the way to the largest maple players,” says Dr. Jane Kolodinsky, chair of Community Development and Applied Economics and the Center for Rural Studies at the University of Vermont.

“For every dollar that is spent in the maple economy, a US$1.60 comes out,” says Dr. Kolodinsky. “So it is a 60 percent benefit that is trickling through the economy and keeping it churning.”

Vermont’s maple sugar trees, for both their foliage and syrup, are a tremendous draw for outsiders. With 1 in 10 jobs in the state relying on dollars from visitors, tourism remains a crucial part of the local economy—from skiing to fall foliage tours.

“If you think about things [indirect economic benefits] that you absolutely can’t measure, it’s the impact of the maple industry and even the sugar bushes and maple trees on tourism,” Dr. Kolondinsky says, “which is what brings people to lovely Vermont.”

Because of its historically frigid winters, Vermont has an ideal sugaring climate. Sugaring occurs when maple trees turn stored starch back into sugar, which mixes with ground water to create sap—this sap is collected to create maple syrup. The process requires cold climates to have cycles of freezing and thawing to produce an increased flow of sap. The best time to tap the trees is when the daytime temperatures are above 40 degrees Fahrenheit and evening temperatures are in the 20s—a typical early Spring climate in Vermont.

However, it has been increasingly difficult to find a stretch of ideal conditions for syrup production in the Northeast. Climate change has shortened the sugaring season. When compared to the beginning of the early 1900s, researchers have noted an overall reduction in maple sugar output in the U.S over the 20th century. They attributed part of this century-long decline to changing climatic conditions.

Environmental factors may also change the quality of the sugar. According to the University of New Hampshire professor Dr. Barry Rock, the sugar content in U.S. sap has halved in the last 50 years, from 4 percent to 2 percent.

In the 1950s, the U.S. produced 80 percent of the global syrup supply, and Canada contributed about 20 percent. Today, it’s the opposite, with Canada supplying 80 percent of the global market. This dominance is in part due to Canada’s increased investment in marketing and government subsidies.

Forty years ago, sugar makers would tap their trees around Town Meeting Day, the first Tuesday in March. During the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Vermonters were tapping as early as January 1. Unseasonably warm winters were partially responsible for this early start as the last two years were some of the hottest on public record for the U.S.

In spite of these trends, the American maple syrup industry is growing.

The last few sugaring seasons have led to record output. In 2017, Vermont had a near-record year in maple syrup quantity, producing 1.98 million gallons worth an estimated US$59.4 million in sales. This production was slightly down from the preceding year.

“New technology and practices introduced into the maple industry, particularly improved vacuum and improved taphole/tubing sanitation practices, have increased yield per tap of syrup over the past 20 years,” says Dr. Timothy Perkins, research professor and director of the University of Vermont’s Proctor Maple Research Center.

In the last several years, Perkins says that bigger maple operations with these new technologies will often tap their trees during the early thaws to capture the mid-winter flows.

Perkins explains that, “at the same time, higher prices for syrup have made the economics of production better, so the industry has grown [and] added taps,with most of these new taps using high-yield practices.”

In 2017, Vermont sugar makers placed 5.41 million taps, a 12 percent increase over 2016. The introduction of new taps has helped sugarers to increase their output.

“Thus we see a strongly growing total maple syrup production over this time period,” explained Perkins. “In short, improved technology and practice have swamped out any small losses due to climate change.”

What will the 2018 maple sugar season bring? It’s too early to predict, but Perkins says that “the popular notion that the maple industry is being badly impacted by climate change is, at this point at least, incorrect.”

Better technologies, practices, and tapping have allowed the state’s maple industry to grow in spite of the warming of the planet. But the longer-term future of the sugar maple in Vermont remains uncertain.

Amialya is a contributing writer for Food Tank. She has a Master of Science in Nutrition and Food Studies from George Mason University. Recently, she published her research on gender and food security in Uganda in the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition. She is currently a San Diego based freelance writer in the health and food niche. Read more at LittleOctopus.org.

This article was republished from Food Tank.

See also:
How Capitalism Is Changing Vermont's Maple Syrup Industry For The Worse
Why Buy Organic Maple Syrup?

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

May 21, 2018

The Leo Moon is void of course until late tonight. As a result the day lacks verve, not the best way to begin a working week. Expect attention spans to be short even as the desire for attention may seem exaggerated. Some needs remain unfulfilled…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

May 2018

Spend a day in conversation with angels! Heal and empower yourself with the energy of angels. You will learn the special healing gift that each of nine healing angels brings and how this relates...

Cost: $111

Where:
Be Well Studios
3358 White Mountain Highway
North Conway, NH  03860
View map »


Sponsor: Pathway Of Joy
Telephone: 207-329-7192
Contact Name: Linda Huitt
Website »

More information

Do you desire more connection and intimacy? Do you want to increase the quality of your intimacy? Does fear of rejection, misinterpretation or expectations hold you back from initiating?...

Cost: $187 per person

Where:
Watertown Center for Healing Arts
22 Mount Auburn St
Watertown, MA
View map »


Sponsor: Conscious Intimacy
Telephone: 415-244-1652
Contact Name: Brynn Bishop
Website »

More information

With Dido Nydick A Restorative Yoga practice to experience relaxation for well-being. Each class will consist of a reclining pose sequence designed to restore the nervous system and help release...

Cost: $25

Where:
YogaLife Institute of NH
6 Chestnut Street
Lower Level
Exeter, NH  03833
View map »


Sponsor: YogaLife Institute of NH
Telephone: 603-867-3969
Contact Name: Alice Bentley
Website »

More information

Sunday yoga is back! Hatha Yoga with meditation to get you ready to tackle your spring intentions. Sign up for series or drop in. 

Cost: $75/5 classes; drop in $17.00

Where:
Dragonfly Wellness Center
176 Jackson Rd
Devens, MA
View map »


Sponsor: Dragonfly Wellness Center
Telephone: 978-227-8297
Contact Name: Anita Perry
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
No Events

Feel the bliss of opening your spine, while being totally supported and meticulously aligned. Great for sciatica and low back pain! Classes also held Saturday mornings.

Cost: $18 drop in

Where:
Bliss Through Yoga
484 Bedford St
East Bridgewater, MA  02333
View map »


Sponsor: Bliss Through Yoga
Telephone: 508-331-3564
Contact Name: Janice
Website »

More information

8 Week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Course with Erin Woo Tuesdays, May 1 - June 19, 6–8:30 pm *Includes an all day retreat on Saturday, June 9 from 9 am - 4 pm Come explore the...

Cost: $290

Where:
Balance Bethlehem
2087 Main Street
Bethlehem, NH  03574
View map »


Sponsor: Balance Bethlehem
Telephone: 603-869-2125
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
No Events

YogaLife studio would like to offer this opportunity to slow it down, step back, notice your breath and sit quietly in community. Join us Thursdays from 5:40-6:30 PM. No Yoga...

Cost: Free

Where:
YogaLife Institute
6 Chestnut Street
Suite A
Exeter, MA  03833
View map »


Telephone: 603-969-8968
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

May 25 - 27 The heroic and shamanic journeys weave throughout human history. Each requires the protagonist to journey into another order of reality, a landscape of magic and mystery…...

Cost: $325 – includes food

Where:
Putney, VT  05346


Sponsor: Circles of Air and Stone
Telephone: 802-387-6624
Contact Name: Sparrow Hart
Website »

More information

Designed to prepare individuals who are interested in helping themselves and others in a rewarding career as a Professional Certified Hypnotist/Hypnotherapist. Live demonstration, supervised...

Cost: $1995 ppd. (Early Bird by 5/14 - $1795)

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

Dominic Boag is one of the UK’s finest psychic mediums. Dominic has been taking his events to audiences across Scotland. He is the Scottish Sun’s Psychic and writes his own column named...

Where:
American Legion Post 440
295 California St.
Newton, MA  02458
View map »


Sponsor: Greater Boston Church of Spiritualism
Telephone: 617-861-1440
Website »

More information

May 25 - 28, 2018 Save the date! Four days of learning, earth healing, music, meditation, dance and delicious organic food! All are welcome!

Where:
Old King Farm
567 Money Hole Road
Benson, VT  05743
View map »


Telephone: 802-537-3460
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
No Events
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags