Maple production nears historic levels

copyright the Chronicle June 28, 201

 

by Tena Starr

 

Although maple sugaring in Vermont has grown at a startling rate in the past decade, it still hasn’t reached pre1935 levels, at least in terms of the number of trees tapped.

That’s according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (UDSA), which last week released its annual statistic on maple syrup production. This year, 5.4 million Vermont trees were tapped, the USDA said. Before 1935, though, between 5.5 and 6 million trees were tapped on a regular basis.

The USDA also said that Vermont’s 2017 maple syrup production totaled 1.98 million gallons, which was the second highest production on record. That’s up 12 percent from 2016 “and the largest number of taps since 1935,” according to USDA statistics.

Sugaring’s dramatic growth is due, in part, to the fact that it also fell dramatically. The number of trees tapped dipped to around 1.5 million in the 1960s, according to the USDA. In 2003, it climbed to 2.12 million. Growth has been pretty steady since 2007 except for a sharp dip in 2011.

“There used to be a lot more agriculture in the state,” said Tim Perkins, director of the Proctor Maple Research Center in Underhill. “Back at that time, people didn’t do much of anything else.”

In early spring, farmers could either cut firewood or make syrup, he said. Syrup was a cash crop, and almost every dairy farm had a sugarbush that farmers made good use of.

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