March Update: From Backyard Sugarer to Commercial Syrup Production

March 11. Good News! Doug Munroe received news that he has been awarded a grant from the Tobacco Community Reinvestment Fund to jump start his project. This resource is offered by the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI). Here's a link to the current grant recipient projects (2009)...Doug's effort will be right at home!!: Current Projects
This means it's official. Doug will be able to move forward with putting in place the infrastructure needed to shift to full scale syrup production. This is exciting. This effort will serve as a very strong example of how a nearby land owners may make a living by sustainably harvesting natural resources on their land. This project will provide details of how to make the transition. There are plans to provide demonstrations and/or seminars for other farmers in the area, using Doug's effort as an example. Details on the timing of these small events will be shared as they are scheduled.

Bad News! Because of the recent rise in popularity of syrup production it appears North Carolina will begin regulating maple syrup production and sale. Up until recently, one could make syrup in the backyard and sell it at the local market without regulation. It appears this will no longer be the case. What does this mean for Doug and other farmers making the transition? ...added costs for the farmer. Doug's plans for the sugar house will probably have to change. He may be required to have a certified kitchen (including water heater, stainless steel equipment, pipes, etc.) which will increase his cost substantially. Doug has been informed that regulations have already been put in place!! It is probable that the effort to bring greater awareness to local sustainability brought about this change. An article in "Our State Magazine" featured the maple syrup farmer. The word is getting out. Too bad increased popularity means increased regulations.

This year's harvest was modest. On the side of that mountain, two feet of snow and 3-4 foot drifts has made getting around a bit of a challenge. Doug exclaimed," I haven't seen snow and cold like this since the 1970's!". Even with the recent influx of warmth, on Tuesday he still reported 6 inches of snow in the open fields.
On Sunday Doug hauled 80 gallons of sap to the cooker. By Tuesday (at the time of the interview for this article) he had collected 20 additional gallons. This year's snowy and cold February only produced 1 quart of maple syrup. So far March has produced 1.5 gallons. The adverse weather has caused a very late sap drop. Doug still cooks his sap over burning wood, all of which is gathered from the forest floor around his house. I remember how challenging it was to gather this wood last year! This year, Doug dealt with deep snow and did wood collection without the large group of wood-gathering volunteers! Believe it or not, he is hoping for another spell of very cold weather. It is the cold night and subsequent warm day that brings more sap!

All Photographs in this posting taken by Patrick Considine

Links to prior articles:

Introduction 2009

November update, 2009

December update, 2009

February update, 2010

Summer Update, 2010