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UK, Purdue University collaborate to expand maple syrup production
 
By Doug Graves
Ohio Correspondent

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – In response to growing consumer demand for environmentally friendly goods, the University of Kentucky and Purdue University are collaborating on a transformative project to expand sustainable maple syrup production. The study will occur in Kentucky and Indiana’s Central Hardwood Region, focusing on sustainable, low-carbon syrup production.
The Central Hardwoods Region covers 42 million acres across Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois and southern Missouri. The landscape is a mosaic of forests, woodlands, and savannas, and other ecosystems. Many forests are dominated by oaks, shortleaf pine, hickory and various other tree species.
The project is directed toward developing a model for “green” maple syrup cooperatives such as energy-efficient production and sustainable forest management.
“Fostering co-ops of green maple syrup production will not only create economies of scale, thus lowering the average cost of energy-efficient production, but also reduce the average carbon footprint per unit of production,” said Mo Zhou, associate professor of forest economics and management at Purdue and principal investigator of the grant.
Previous maple syrup research at Purdue, made possible through a $500,000 USDA Acer Access and Development Program grant, found that consumers are willing to pay a price premium for maple syrup sourced from sustainably managed forests, but the amount of the premium depends on the sustainability label. The grant’s focus has been on increasing consumption and production of maple syrup through an integrated marketing strategy over a three-year time span, in partnership with the Indiana Maple Syrup Association.
“Our goal is to integrate economic viability with environmental sustainability,” said Thomas Ochuodho, associate professor in the UK Department of Forestry and Natural Resources. “We’re looking to demonstrate that ‘green’ maple syrup production is beneficial for the environment and economically feasible for producers in the Central Hardwood Region.”
The initiative has four main objectives:
- Understanding the motivations for voluntary co-ops: The project will investigate why producers choose to join co-ops and how these cooperatives could support sustainable practices.
- Developing a proof of concept for green co-ops: Through research and practical trials, the team aims to create and refine a model for environmentally friendly maple syrup production co-ops.
- Profiling potential green producers and predicting impacts: The project seeks to understand and predict the broader economic impacts of a more sustainable maple industry by identifying potential green producers and lessors.
- Promoting green production: Through targeted educational efforts, the project aims to encourage more producers to adopt sustainable practices.
“The study will place emphasis on educational activities to spread knowledge, encouraging the adoption of green practices among maple syrup producers and landowners,” Zhou said. “These efforts, supported by the findings from comprehensive surveys and research, will use educational tools and materials well-suited to the needs of local producers.”
Both universities hope to see a substantial increase in the production of sustainable, low-carbon footprint maple syrup, driving economic benefits for producers while significantly reducing the environmental impact of syrup production across the region. 
Funding for this project is made possible by a grant from the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service.
Novice maple producers in Indiana and Kentucky need not panic about venturing into the world of maple syrup production. There are associations in each state that offer guidelines to new and veteran producers alike.
The Indiana Maple Syrup Association (IMSA) is an organization of roughly 170 Hoosier maple syrup producers. The IMSA has a newsletter (The Tapline) that is published quarterly. It provides news and information for maple syrup producers, hobbyists and others.
The IMSA represents Hoosier producers through membership in the North American Maple Syrup Council.
For more information about the IMSA go to www.indianamaplysyrup.org.
The Kentucky Maple Syrup Association (KMSA) provides a forum for all sugar makers both large and small to discuss ideas, concerns and share information. The KMSA represents commercial and hobbyist sugar makers and membership is open to all persons interested in maple syrup or firms engaged in any phase of producing, processing and/or marketing of maple syrup. The KMSA is governed by a set of bylaws and a board of directors.
“Our wide membership includes maple producers in Kentucky and other states, ranging from backyard hobbyists to long time larger producers,” said KMSA President Keith Moore of Lawrence County. “Our membership also includes equipment manufacturers, ex-producers and just about anyone with an interest in the Kentucky maple industry.”
For more information about KMSA go to www.kymaplesyrup.com.

6/17/2024