Ohio's Maple Syrup Industry - A look at current status and recent changes

Anusha Shrestha
Sayeed R. Mehmood
Environment and Natural Resources

Maple syrup is culturally and economically important to Ohio. However, production has lagged behind the local consumption and only a fraction of the state's tapping potential has been utilized. Studies on maple syrup producers - their production practices, marketing, and sales in Ohio are limited. The last in-depth study on maple syrup production was conducted in 2004 (Graham, 2005). Therefore, this study aims to assess Ohio's maple syrup industry's current status in terms of sugarbush, sap collection, syrup production, marketing, and producers' demographic characteristics and compare select characteristics with the 2004 study. A mail survey was sent to 1,453 producers. The list of producers was obtained from OSU extension. The responses were summarized using descriptive analyses. Preliminary results indicated that sugar maple was the dominant species for 56% of sugarbush (a forest stand with maple trees). Removal of undesired trees was the most commonly implemented timber management to improve the health of sugarbush in the last 5 years. The average experience of producers operating sugarbush was 27 years [19 years in 2004]. Buckets were used by 44% of producers to collect sap from maple trees [78% in 2004], whereas 54% used tubing system [22% in 2004]. Of those who used tubing, only 33% used vacuum [29% in 2004]. Most of the producers (93%) boiled their own syrup. Only 37% of them used the reverse osmosis unit. Almost all of the producers (98%) filtered their syrup and graded syrup for color (99%) and taste (75%). A total of 81,623 gallons of syrup was produced. Of the total production, a majority of syrup was sold in retail (63%) directly from their farm or sugarhouse. Only 41% of producers advertised their syrup, and word of mouth was mostly used (80%) and preferred advertisement method. The preliminary results indicated that substantial changes were observed in maple syrup industry since 2004, but there is room for improvement in production and marketing practices. The results will help develop more effective outreach programs and policy instruments to promote the production and marketing of maple syrup and sustainable sugarbush management.