Testing the Feasibility of Maple Syrup Production on Southern Ohio Family Farms

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2009: $5,970.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:

Annual Reports


  • Miscellaneous: syrup


  • Education and Training: mentoring, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, youth education
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, feasibility study
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, sustainability measures, community development

    Proposal summary:

    This project will address the problem of how to produce sustainable income on the traditional small family farms of southern Ohio. Sustainable maple sugaring could very well produce a source of income on any family farm that has access to one of southern Ohio's indigenous stands of sugar maples. Based on the several gallons of syrup that we have produced, southern Ohio syrup is of excellent quality, although ours has been fairly dark as a result of the longer, primitive boil down processes that we have employed to date. Our trees have also exhibited a very good sap to syrup ratio, approximately thirty four gallons of sap boiling down into one gallon of syrup. This project thus plans to educate and share the potential of maple syrup production with Brown County's 4-H youth, while at the same time measuring the quantity of Brown County maple sap that it takes to produce one gallon of syrup. There are approximately one thousand 4-H members in Brown County, Ohio spread out among forty individual groups. I plan to go to the annual group leader meeting in early 2010 and share the project's details, and then, in the late winter of 2010/2011, I will go to each group and tell the history of maple sugaring as learned by the settlers from the American Indians. I will explain the science behind the maple flow that occurs in late winter each year and explain why it is that the sap can be tapped. I will present a printed handout to each 4-H member detailing how to identify and tap a maple tree, and to those who wish to participate in the project I will loan a spile (tap). The handout will explain in detail how to tap a maple tree with nothing more than the spile, a clean gallon milk jug and a 7/16 drill bit. When the sap begins to flow in early 2011, I will call each 4-H group leader to notify their individual group members to tap their chosen tree. Each 4-H participant will collect sap for three consecutive days, and as each gallon jug fills up, cover the hole with tape and place it in the refrigerator. We will then host two consecutive Open Houses at Straight Creek Valley Farm for all of the 4-H participants. Each participant will be able to add their gallon(s) of sap to the grant enabled efficient evaporator and take home, for their family to enjoy, their percent share of the maple syrup produced. I will record the number of gallons of sap run through the evaporator and the resulting gallons of syrup at each of the 4-H Open House events. I will also tap forty maple trees at Straight Creek Valley Farm and boil the sap down separately throughout the three week sap run season. I will measure the circumference of each tree and keep records of the number of gallons that each tree produces. I will also record the day time high and night time low temperatures at the farm. I will thus be able to measure sap production in light of tree girth and weather conditions, as well as I will be able to quantify the ratio of sap to syrup within the Straight Creek Valley Farm trees. I will sell the farm syrup locally. This project will thus result in empirical data with regard to the quantity of syrup that is able to be produced from Brown County sugar maples, as well as it will educate the county's future farmers, and local farmers' market shoppers, that an indigenous natural resource exists on their family farms, just waiting to be "tapped" for either personal pleasure or economic growth.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.