Gov. Peter Shumlin kicked off Vermont's 2013 maple sugar season today, officially tapping a maple tree on the State House lawn and highlighting the industry's advances and importance to the state's economy.
"Vermont leads the U.S. in maple production. Ten years ago, we had about 1 million taps in Vermont, and we expect three times that many in 2013," the Governor said, noting that the number of maple producers has also climbed sharply in that time, from about 2,000 in 2002 to about 3,000 today. "Sugaring is not only a long-standing part of Vermont's heritage, but it's also a vital component of the state's modern-day economy."
Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross agreed, adding, "Vermont maple is internationally known for exceptional quality, and is in high demand. The maple industry plays a huge role in maintaining a vital, thriving working landscape in our state."
More than 1 million gallons were produced in 2011, but warmer weather led to slightly lower production last year -- about 750,000 gallons.
But new innovations have helped Vermont stay on the forefront of production. Among those:
• Smaller taps that are better for tree health without sacrificing production.
• Reverse osmosis, which allows water to be extracted from sap, resulting in higher sugar concentrations and less boiling time. It also saves fuel.
• Check valve spouts, which were developed by Dr. Tim Perkins of the UVM Proctor Maple Research Center, allowing less contamination of the taphole and increased production of sap.
• More efficient evaporators to speed boiling times and create a better finished product.
“Advances in technology have made production more efficient and significantly cut sugar makers’ energy use, increasing quality and providing a measure of resilience against weather patterns and climate change,” said Vermont Maple Sugar Makers’ Association Executive Director, Matt Gordon. “What makes maple syrup great, though, is that even with advances in technology, it is still the same, pure product that has been made for centuries.”
These advances will ensure Vermont’s maple industry remains a leader in production techniques and quality, and will help provide resilience to an industry which is particularly susceptible to weather patterns and climate change.