When most people imagine maple syrup production, they think of buckets hanging from trees collecting sap. But these days, most of that sap is collected by pipeline and vacuum pumps.That makes our GPS controlled tractor not look so fancy. All that production might throw off the Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve those crazy Quebecois keep.
Technological advances in the past decade have allowed Vermont's maple syrup producers to triple the number of taps they're putting in maple trees. They're getting twice as much sap per tree, which means more syrup and more money. Statewide, the crop brought in $40 million last year, doubling in value in just six years.
At J.R. Sloan's sugarhouse in Fletcher, Vt., sap arrives in tanks on the back of huge trucks, where it's pumped underground into tubs. It's a model of efficiency. Years ago, producers had to boil all of the water out of sap to concentrate the syrup. Now, sap is sent though reverse osmosis machines, which filter most of the water out before boiling begins.
The result is pure Vermont maple syrup.
"See what he's pulling off the rig right there? That's fancy," Sloan says. "That's our best product you can make. That's the highest money."
Sloan started out tapping 14,000 trees in the spring, even as he worked a full-time job. He was taking a chance when he built his sugarhouse. "That cost $117,000 to build that, with all the equipment. And the first year, I grossed $239,000," he says. "Syrup went wicked high that year. I got into it at just the right time."...
And the sugarhouse has not only gotten bigger, it's been redone to meet food safety standards. They've switched to new taps that prevent the holes in trees from healing up, extending the season. Vacuum pumps also allow sap to flow even as the spring weather that sugarmakers depend on becomes less predictable.
Weather and climate change will always be a concern, but even last year, when Vermont had 80-degree days in March, producers made more syrup than in most previous years.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
High Tech Maple Syrup Collection