One of the best parts of our work is having the opportunity to feel a close association with the forests and the seasons. Spring is one of the sweeter times of the year, full of blossoms and flowers, but also something even sweeter. It’s maple syrup season!
On northern Michigan, the taps are already out for what could shape up to be a long and productive year for area maple syrup harvesters. This is one of the most treasured annual traditions for landowners and families, and it’s an annual ritual that’s been going on for a very long time. In fact, maple syrup is technically the oldest agricultural enterprise in the United States!
That’s due in large part to just how much Americans, and Michiganders, love maple syrup. Indigenous tribes learned that in the colder months, maple trees stored their sap, called starch, in their trunks until spring. The three most productive species are sugar, red, and black maples, though nearly every variety does offer a decent quality syrup. As that starch turns to a sugary, sweet residue in late winter and early spring, it’s time to tap!
Maybe the most surprising part of the process is just how much sap from the tree it takes to make a sweet and delicious syrup. As a general rule, it takes approximately forty gallons of maple sap to make a single gallon of syrup. That maple sap is boiled down in either an open pan or by more modern and efficient boiler methods. There are a number of ways to grade the quality of the final product,
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Michigan is fairly famous as a maple syrup producer. The Mitten state ranks 7th in the country, putting out around 90,000 gallons per season. Northern Michigan is dotted with both commercial and home-based maple syrup enthusiasts, and there are some wonderful roadside stands that offer syrup from the trees you can see for yourself when you stop by!
This time of year is a great chance to appreciate our continuing relationship with the land and our dependence on its natural strengths, changes, and influences. We take great pride and hold a large responsibility for our land management and encourage healthy, protective, and sustainable harvesting to make every year sweeter for you and your family.