Vermont state officials celebrated the upcoming maple syrup season with a ceremonial tree tapping Friday at the new Hardwick sugarhouse run by students of the Green Mountain Technology and Career Center.
Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, tapped a maple tree, admired finished syrup in the sugarhouse, and sampled what’s often known as Vermont’s “liquid gold.”
“I’ve never had New Hampshire [syrup],” Gov. Scott joked. “I didn’t even know that they made it.”
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Scott’s ribbing of his neighbors to the east came following a friendly rivalry that re-emerged this week on Twitter.
Gov. Chris Sununu, R-New Hampshire, tweeted, “There’s nothing better than New Hampshire maple syrup,” and shared a GIF of him tapping a tree at a celebration with maple producers from his state.
Gov. Scott wasn’t having it. He responded, “I’d say there is something better: it’s called Vermont maple syrup.”
Vermont produces nearly half the country’s crop—just shy of 2-million gallons last year.
The production supported roughly 4,000 jobs, according to the Vermont Agency of Agriculture.
“It’s a good industry to get into—there’s always going to be maple trees,” said Eugene Carpenter, a 17-year-old student in the Green Mountain Tech Center’s forestry program. “Everybody loves maple syrup!”
But could producers here become victims of their own success?
Matt Gordon of the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers’ Association said the number of sap taps in the state has just about quintupled over the past 15 years—to 5-million.
That increased output and a weaker dollar in maple-heavy Canada, which carries a great deal of influence in the maple industry, mean bulk prices for U.S. syrup have fallen, Gordon explained.
Major retail chains are also applying pressure.
“They just want prices cheaper and cheaper and that’s, in some ways, bringing the price down, which is not necessarily helpful for us as an industry,” Gordon told necn. “Maple syrup—it takes a lot to get it made—it’s not a cheap product to make. That said, [inclusion on major chains’ shelves] does help introduce people to pure maple syrup and I think that’s good as well. So it’s a little bit of a double-edged sword.”
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture said future success may come from promoting the natural product’s versatility: how it’s not just for pancakes, but also great in savory foods, cocktails, on yogurt or granola, and many more applications.
“There’s potential outside of our borders — and that’s probably where the growth has got to be,” said Anson Tebbetts, Vermont’s secretary of agriculture. “We have to assure our consumers that they’re getting real Vermont maple syrup and it’s not the fake stuff.”
The industry is eager to share its tastes with visitors March 24 and 25, when sugarhouses across Vermont take part in the annual maple open house weekend.
For more information on that event, click here.