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Harvest Begins for Hoosier Maple Syrup Makers

Southern Indiana producers make first taps for 2008

 

 

It may be February, but spring is here and harvest time has begun for some hundred Indiana farmers and forest owners who make maple syrup.

“People usually think ‘Vermont’ when someone says ‘maple syrup’,” commented Garry Sink, maple producer and president of the Indiana Maple Syrup Association, “but there is maple syrup as well as corn in Indiana!”

And statistics bear Sink out.  According to Jeff Settle, Supervisor for the Indiana Division of Forestry’s Utilization & Marketing (U&M) Program, bout 5000 gallons of maple syrup were produced in Indiana in 2007.
Though Indiana has an active maple syrup industry, Hoosier production is still too small to be included in the federal agricultural survey.  Because of this, Settle and the Indiana Division of Forestry annually survey Hoosier producers and compile results.

The survey finds that there are 31 counties in the state that have at least one active maple syrup producer.    Elkhart County, in the northernmost part of the state, has the most reported sugar camps  (31) as well as the largest which produces almost 750 gallons of syrup annually.

Sap flow is totally weather dependent, and syrup makers tap their trees when daytime temperatures accompanied by bright sunshine reach 40 F during the day and drop well below freezing at night.  Those conditions usually arrive in the southern part of the state during the third week of February and about a week later in the north.  A few producers in the south have already tapped and are collecting sap. The season ends about a month later when nighttime temperatures no longer reach the freezing mark with any regularity.

Maple syrup makers must collect about 45 gallons of raw sap to make one gallon of maple syrup.  Most Hoosier syrup makers use buckets, but the largest producers now employ plastic tubing and vacuum lines for collection.  When the sap reaches the sugarhouse, water is removed by boiling the sap in large, flat evaporating pans that are heated by wood fires or an oil burner.  During the process, the sugar content is raised from about 2.5% in the raw sap to 67% in the finished syrup.  No flavoring or other ingredients are added.  Pure maple syrup consists of the sugar made by the tree plus natural oils and resins from the wood that provide the distinctive maple flavor.

Most of the syrup produced in Indiana is sold at the farm or in local retail outlets.  Interest in this locally produced, natural food is strong, and Hoosier producers find it a challenge to meet the current demand.

More information about Hoosier maple syrup including results from the IDNR surveys are available elswhere on this web site or,

Contact Louise Jewell, Public Relations Director

Indiana Maple Syrup Association