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Maple Syrup Production in Indiana


Prepared by Jeff Settle,Supervisor for the Indiana Division of Forestry's Utilization and Marketing Program

Shortly after the close of the 2004 Maple Syrup season, 175 questionnaires were sent to all known producers of maple syrup in Indiana. 84 individuals promptly responded to the questionnaire resulting in a 48% response rate compared to a 46% response rate in 2003.
For the sake of comparison of similar climatic regions, the results were broken down per two major regions. The dividing line chosen was U.S. Route 40 bisecting the State into a Northern region and a Southern region. 20 questionnaires were returned from the south region and 64 came from the northern region.
Of the producers that responded to the questionnaire, 74% of these folks produced syrup in 2004, a slight decline from 80% reported in 2003. 11 producers from the southern region and 51 producers from the northern region reported production in 2004.
Almost 41% of the state's total syrup production of 5211.75 gallons was accounted for by six large producers. Northern producers accounted for 4817.2 gallons compared to 3733.5 gallons in 2003 while southern producers generated 394 gallons, a significant decrease from 1402 gallons reported in 2003. The graph reflects the total number of gallons produced each year from 2000.
There are 57 counties in the state that have at least one active maple syrup producer. Elkhart and Putnam counties are home to the largest sugar camps both producing approximately 400 gallons of syrup. Elkhart County was once again the county with the most reported sugar camps – 29.
The average opening dates were 2/17/04 and 2/10/04 for the north and south respectfully. The average closing dates were 3/20/04 for the north and 3/19/04 for the south. The overall state average for the opening date was 2/18/04 and the closing date was 3/20/04. The line graph reflects the opening / closing dates based on respondent’s information from 2000 through 2004. The upper line represents the average closing date and the lower line represents the average opening date for each year.

The average amount of sugar water (sap) needed to produce a gallon of syrup was 45.4 gallons in the north and 45.2 gallons in the south. The state average was 45.4 gallons of sap to produce a gallon of syrup. The average amount of sap needed in 2004 to produce a gallon of syrup may not be wholly accurate, as quite a few producers do not maintain accurate records of sap inflow. The average amount of syrup produced per camp was 84 gallons, up from 78 gallons per camp reported in 2003. Most sugar water was produced at the producer's own sugar bush(es), although in 2004 a significant increase was noted as producers purchased a little over 8,700 gallons of sugar water from outside producers.
Over 36,000 taps were utilized in 2004, an average of 429 taps per producer.
Of those 36,000 taps, almost 39% of the state's syrup production was accounted for via producers using buckets for sugar water collection. Over 14,000 buckets were used in 2004 for collection purposes. The amount of sugar water collected by buckets accounted for total syrup production of 3529.25 gallons in the north and 49 gallons in the south region. 44 Indiana maple syrup producers used an average of 320 buckets in their collection operations.

Buckets remain more popular in the north region. The largest single producer utilizing buckets hung over 1440 buckets in the northern region and 43 buckets in the southern half. Several producers reported using plastic bags and tubing in addition to buckets for the collection of sugar water. A breakdown of the total taps utilized each year is shown in the accompanying graph.

Although plastic sap collection bags have yet to really catch on, eleven producers used 5742 (a considerable increase from 2003) collection bags. Producers using bags set on the average, approximately 274 taps. Exceptions are present though with two individuals using over 1000 bags for collection. Sap bag collection accounted about 7% of the total syrup production, which is down from 12.5% reported in 2003. On a regional basis, those using plastic sap collection bags were split pretty evenly between the two regions. 11 northern producers using 5479 bags collected produced 349 gallons of syrup and six southern producers using 263 bags produced 57 (down from 204 in 2003) gallons of syrup in 2004.
A number of producers are trying tubing for sugar water collection and are slowly changing over as terrain, dollars and results allow. Statewide, 11 persons (7 in the northern region and 4 in the south) used over 150,000 feet of tubing for collection purposes in 2004. Those using tubing produced 1679 gallons of syrup. This is a slight increase from the data reported in 2003 (1597 gallons). This amounts to 112 gallons per producer.

The pie charts show the distribution of tap types for the years 2000, 2002, and 2004.
The statewide average price received for a retail gallon of syrup was $30.78. The average per gallon price was slightly higher in the south region at $34.33 versus the north average of $30.33 per retail gallon. The average statewide price received for a quart of retail syrup was $9.98. Statewide wholesale average gallon price was $25.00; there was little variation in wholesale gallon prices per region.
The statistics gathered via our 2004 maple syrup production questionnaire most likely will not reflect the true income generated from Indiana's producers. The statewide reported syrup income for 2004 (multiplying the average $/per gallon X reported production) is slightly over $160,400.00. However, if one appreciates that which was consumed via the producers' family, given away, or simply not reported, the calculated dollar figure may very well conservatively grow to about $190,000.00. Assuming this figure to be realistic, the average dollar return per tap hole is $5.27 which is only .30 less than reported in the 2003 maple syrup producer’s survey. Sales do not appear to be a limiting factor for Indiana maple product producers; rather the inability to produce enough syrup due to the unfavorable weather was the greatest impediment to finding our maple fortunes. Prime tapping conditions center on below freezing temperatures of an evening with a fairly fast thaw in the mornings which normally allows for good syrup flow. This year’s survey indicated (through comments) very similar conditions for the north and the south. 55% of the surveys indicated below average conditions.
Overall, greater than 87% of the produced syrup is sold at a retail level. Of those reporting sales, over 31% state that at least a portion of their production is given away or consumed domestically; of course these same producers tend to be smaller in scope and production. Packaging preferences show the majority favoring retail sales in gallon containers, fewer favoring quarts, with remainders sold in smaller units. A few producers offer maple sugar, creams, candies, cookies, etc., but apparently these maple products do not account for substantial percentages of any one producer's sales.
We are all aware that each sugar bush has unique characteristics and that no two bushes produce alike. Although Indiana is a relatively small geographic area, the variation in weather is significant as evidenced by prior years. For the most part, respondents stated this year was a below average season, due to reasons discussed previously.

Even though the majority of comments lamented about the poor weather, total production in 2003 compared to this year’s survey was only 75 gallons less.
40 respondents stated they would like to be listed in the Indiana Maple Syrup Producers Brochure. As time and funds permit, we are hoping to prepare an updated brochure. Additionally, we believe it would be beneficial to have "Indiana generic" maple syrup articles on hand for the barrage of requests from reporters for local newspapers and other media come next February, 2005.

I sincerely thank all the maple producers for their prompt questionnaire responses. I have updated our maple database and will continue to be a contact for Indiana maple products. Please remember the data compiled in this report will be only as good as the data received. To be able to more accurately report maple syrup production figures, a higher response rate will be needed. Although our time is limited for personal visits to your operation, we do welcome your calls and inquiries on all facets of maple production. Special forest products such as maple syrup contribute substantially to many rural folk's income while offering wholesome therapy at the same time.