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

January 19, 2020

This morning’s lunar sextile to pragmatic Saturn rouses many souls into “instant on” mode. Priorities are clear. Get organized. Sort through papers and clutter, repurpose some items, recycle and eliminate others. As the day progresses, practical matters…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

January 2020

Saturday January 18th, 2020 from 10:30-4pm and Sunday January 19th, 2020 from 10:30-4pm In Reiki Master Level you will learn the master symbols, receive the master level attunement and learn how...

Cost: $295 for new students, $195 for the refresher option

Where:
Sohum Yoga and Meditation Studio
30 Lyman Street, Suite 108B
Westborough Shopping Center
Westborough, MA  01581
View map »


Sponsor: www.SOHUM.org
Telephone: 508-329-3338
Contact Name: Ritu Kapur
Website »

More information

Join us and connect to the powerful energies of the bird kingdom. Throughout earth history, birds have been thought to be divine messengers. Many spiritual systems believe they are emissaries of...

Cost: $95

Where:
Circles of Wisdom
386 Merrimack St
Methuen, MA
View map »


Sponsor: Circles of Wisdom
Telephone: 978-474-8010
Contact Name: front desk
Website »

More information

Your soul has already seeded your existence with all that is needed to completely express your destiny. Let the Miracle Mantra awaken you to the awareness of spirit ever present in your...

Cost: Suggested Donation: $20

Where:
Yoga At The Ashram
368 Village Street
Millis, MA  02054
View map »


Sponsor: Yoga at the Ashram
Telephone: 508-376-4525
Website »

More information

Come shine with us! Join us in harmony and in our goal to bring the light of Spiritualism forward to all those who are searching.

Where:
VFW Post 2597
775 Boston Rd, Rt 3A
Billerica, MA
View map »


Sponsor: The Spiritualist Fellowship Church Of New England
Website »

More information

January 19th, February 16th, March 8th by appointment only. Kinetic Chain Release (KCR) to balance body, resolve leg length discrepancies, reduce back, shoulder, knee, hip pain and reduce stress...

Cost: $65 to $145

Where:
Leapin' Lizards
449 Forest Ave
Portland, ME  04101
View map »


Sponsor: Leapin' Lizards
Telephone: 207-221-2363
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Discover Beauty. Discover Goodness. Discover Yourself. Your soul’s gifts are waiting. Breathe. Find stillness. The spark you need to ignite your life is here, within. Max Meditation...

Cost: $15

Where:
Modern Mystery School Boston
132 Charles St
3rd Floor
Auburndale, MA  02466
View map »


Sponsor: Modern Mystery School Boston
Telephone: 617-694-0994
Contact Name: Jordan Bain
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Total Life Group Cleanse begins with Jonathan Glass, Ayurvedic practitioner Includes the following three Tuesdays. A 28-day program designed to initiate and maximize detoxification and...

Where:
Concord, MA


Website »

More information

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

Are you ready to permanently up-level your life? Are you ready close the gap between where you are today and your higher purpose? Are you ready to take a definitive step toward healing the...

Cost: $15

Where:
Modern Mystery School Boston
132 Charles St
3rd Floor
Auburndale, MA  02466
View map »


Sponsor: Modern Mystery School Boston
Telephone: 617-694-0994
Contact Name: Jordan Bain
Website »

More information

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

January is the time of the year when we look ahead to the year in front of us and imagine it to be better than the one we are leaving behind. We often make the New Years resolution in January and...

Cost: $108 before Jan 20 ($120 after)

Where:
Unity Farm Sanctuary
17 Unity Lane
Westborough Shopping Center
Sherborn, MA  01770
View map »


Sponsor: www.SOHUM.org
Telephone: 508-329-3338
Contact Name: Ritu Kapur
Website »

More information

This is a free and mandatory orientation prior to registering for the 8 week group program of mindfulness based stress reduction or MBSR. Please RSVP so we can plan accordingly....

Cost: Free

Where:
Sohum Yoga and Meditation Studio
30 Lyman Street, Suite 108B
Westborough Shopping Center
Westborough, MA  01581
View map »


Sponsor: www.SOHUM.org
Telephone: 508-329-3338
Contact Name: Ritu Kapur
Website »

More information

This class will teach you how to make your own intricate wire-wrapped gemstone pendant, expanding on the basics from the introductory Level 1 class that has been taught previously. This class if...

Cost: Reg includes supplies $60 per person or $50 more than one

Where:
The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
68 Stiles Rd, Unit A
Our Yellow Banner is in Window w/Fairy Lights Please remove shoes at the door
Salem, NH  03079
View map »


Sponsor: The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
Telephone: 603-275-7688
Contact Name: Stacey
Website »

More information

We will be sitting in the New Moon Energy and The Energy and Consciousness of the Chinese New Year.  Stacey and Bob will be doing an energetic transmission with Energies and Stones...

Cost: Class: $30, Online Reg. $25

Where:
The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
68 Stiles Rd, Unit A
Salem, NH  03079
View map »


Sponsor: The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
Telephone: 603-275-7688
Contact Name: Stacey
Website »

More information

Next Class Starts January 25, 2020 You will learn: How to hypnotize How to use hypnosis to help clients make personal changes How to turn hypnosis into a profitable part-time or...

Where:
, RI


Telephone: 401-374-1890
Website »

More information

January 25–April 26, 2020 Now offered in one day and weekend modules that can be taken individually or consecutively.  Dates and individual class links are listed below. All...

Cost: $1360

Where:
Circles of Wisdom
386 Merrimack Street, #1A
Methuen, MA  01844
View map »


Sponsor: Circles of Wisdom
Telephone: 978-474-8010
Contact Name: Cathy Kneeland
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags