Objective 1 : Expand the maple syrup market and increase sales for Vermont producers in schools in Lamoille, Bennington, and Orleans counties. We will do this by connecting sugar makers with their local school nutrition personnel and helping them to establish relationships with their local schools. This will ultimately expand the economic market for maple producers in Vermont. Due to the grant timeline we are limiting initial outreach to three counties.
Objective 2: Develop a purchasing process which makes it easier for Vermont sugar makers to sell their products to school nutrition personnel. We will provide technical assistance to sugar makers and to school nutrition staff to assist in the procurement process. If the procurement process is easier for school nutrition staff to navigate, sugar makers will benefit by having a new market for their syrup.
Objective 3: Determine a baseline of maple syrup sales to schools around the state of Vermont. This will allow us to know how much maple syrup is currently being sold to schools and also to understand the extent to which the maple market exists in schools. We will achieve this baseline by surveying sugar makers and school nutrition professionals.
Although Vermont is famous for its maple syrup production, Vermont syrup is served in a minority of our schools. In this project, we propose to work with VMSMA and the maple sugar industry to develop purchasing relationships with schools. Forging these connections will offer a direct market previously untapped by sugar makers as well as an investment in future consumers. This will build a new market for the maple sugar industry in Vermont. As Matt Gordon wrote in his letter of support for this project: “With the farm-gate price for syrup slumping and production expanding, producers are seeking new markets. Providing local procurement opportunities within their community, such as to schools, has the potential to create a positive impact on small farm businesses.”
This is a new project which builds on the lessons learned in NOFA-VT’s previous Specialty Crop Block Grant Project to establish a market for Vermont fresh fruits and vegetables in schools. NOFA-VT developed tools and provided technical assistance to school nutrition personnel to enable them to better navigate the food procurement system and purchase Vermont products. We can now use these existing tools and adjust them to facilitate maple procurement.
Shelburne Farms, NOFA-VT’s Farm to School partner in VT Food Education Every Day (VT FEED), also worked on this previous Specialty Crop Block Grant project, creating resources for farmers to host school and community groups. They will work with us to expand maple syrup activities to maple producers, as well as conduct trainings for sugar makers to illustrate successful activities that can be conducted on a sugar bush or in a sugar house. Shelburne Farms is well known and well respected in the Vermont community for their work with both farmers and sugar makers.
This project also builds on a rudimentary survey we conducted in 2017, which allowed us to understand the extent to which sugar makers wish to engage with school markets. Through the survey, VT-FEED also learned that school nutrition staff have a commitment to providing Vermont maple syrup, though may not understand how to procure local products or know who to engage.
- Survey sent to all VT sugar makers in VMSMA and received over 50% return.
- Survey sent to all school nutrition directors in Lamoille, Orleans, Washington, and Bennington Counties and received under 50%.
- Paired regional Farm to School partners to work with VMSMA county representatives in Lamoille, Orleans and Washington Counties. Each of these 3 pairs are working on materials for taste testing maple, maple education on the sugarbush and in classrooms.
- Working with Shelburne Farms educators on materials, activities, and presentations for the 3 maple conferences held in January.
- Working with VMSMA on marketing for sugar makers on selling to schools and doing educational activities.
See the uploaded survey results
Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary
The 4 maple producers we are working with to organize county-based activities are learning more about the school nutrition programs they want to sell to and the procurement policies. They also have been introduced to working with some regional Farm to School partners in their counties.
The partners and myself are learning more about the maple sugaring market and VT maple production.
We are still at the beginning of the in depth work with maple sugar makers and school nutrition personnel. However, we were pleased with the initial interests by these stakeholders and have regional partners paired with VMSMA county leads to work together in 3 of the 4 counties (Lamoille, Orleans, Washington, Bennington). We added Washington County based on another funding source so we can extend our reach.
We will know more after the 3 maple conferences we present at in January regarding the value of the presentations, activities, and materials we have created.