Developing the Upper Mississippi River Valley’s Untapped Resource- Organic Maple Syrup

2005 Annual Report for FNC04-531

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2004: $13,800.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $16,100.00
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Eric Meyer
Organic Maple Cooperative

Developing the Upper Mississippi River Valley’s Untapped Resource- Organic Maple Syrup

Summary

PROJECT ACTIVITIES
The cooperative sponsored or cosponsored a handful of educational events on a regional and statewide basis. We helped bring national-caliber expertise into Wisconsin, enabling veteran and perspective maple syrup producers the opportunity to access a knowledge base that is not commonly available.

Due to a horrible maple syrup harvest in the spring of 2005, the cooperative suspended most activities until this year [2006]. It was felt that both recruitment and training activities would have not realized anywhere near their full potential if they had taken place subsequent to an abysmal season from an economic standpoint.

We wanted to conserve the project budget for when it would be most advantageous to reach out to producers. Thus, we have spent only a small percentage of our budget to date.

In addition to the cooperative’s own activities, we cosponsored this year’s Wisconsin Maple Syrup Producers Association annual meeting by underwriting the cost to bring in the educational speaker. This was an incredibly cost-efficient method of doing the educational outreach mandated in this project, as the speaker’s expenses totaled $500 and the statewide association underwrote all other logistics involved in setting up this major educational event and meeting.

OUTREACH & RESULTS
In total, hundreds of maple syrup producers, or prospective producers, have been exposed to educational activities sponsored or cosponsored by the cooperative. Since this was not a research project, there have not been any tangible results to report in terms of what we have learned to date.

However, some of our outreach resulted in a critical mass of producers coming together to form a new marketing cooperative. The Upper Mississippi Maple Cooperative is pleased to announce that it will be merging its operations to form a larger organization better equipped to aggressively market maple syrup on a wholesale basis, presenting additional opportunities for Midwestern producers. Further educational work will be important to increase the infrastructure in our region.

In addition to our partnership with the state association [Wisconsin Maple Syrup Producers Association], we have done numerous mailings and press releases, including to all members identified by the USDA as syrup producers in Wisconsin.

WORK PLAN FOR 2006 & 2007
Based on the approval of an extension for our grant we would intend to partner on the logistics for this project with a new cooperative that has been formed, in part, by an outgrowth of our work.

Due to an excellent harvest in the spring of 2006, spirits are running high and this fall’s meeting season will be an excellent opportunity to revert back to the original timeline and work plan.

Objectives/Performance Targets

To grow the maple syrup industry in the upper Mississippi valley and have it become a major player in the production of organic maple syrup, the project intends to organize small organic producers into pods in order to pool syrup and process it in modern, highly efficient facilities.