Training Oregon Extension and Other Professionals to Assist Emerging Commercial Producers of Bigleaf Maple Syrup and other Sap-based Foods

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2024: $99,977.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2026
Grant Recipient: Oregon State University
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Eric Jones
Oregon State University


No commodities identified


No practices identified

Proposal abstract:

An urgent need exists to train extension agents in the Pacific
Northwest (PNW) on how to assist small farmers developing
commercial tree sap procurement and processing operations to make
maple syrup and other sap-based foods from regional orchard,
managed forest, and wildland forest trees (e.g., Acer,
Betula, Juglans, and Fabus spp
.). Currently research and
development (R & D) is primarily focused on bigleaf maple
(Acer macrophyllum), a fast growing, abundant western
PNW tree that can produce large volumes of nutrient rich sap that
can be tapped in winter. Procurement and processing techniques
are largely the same across edible sap trees. Interdisciplinary R
& D projects at OSU, the addition of maple and walnut syrup to
the Oregon cottage industry Farm Direct law, and heightened
regional media and public attention on sugaring opportunities,
are driving a high level of commercial production interest from
regional farmers and agroforesters. Technological advancements
and lower costs for equipment like reverse osmosis (for sap
concentration), and vacuum tubing systems (for efficient sap
collection), along with growing regional, national, and global
demand for natural sweeteners, have made the PNW trees with
edible saps an increasingly economically viable options for
farmers with tree stock or new orchard space. The PNW tree
sap-based natural foods sector is growing rapidly with many
farmers introducing or readying products for the marketplace.
Based on frequent queries to OSU, WSU, and UW researchers at
public in-person and online webinar events, and through email and
phone calls, extension agent training is a readily apparent need.
Improving extension capacity will help deliver educational
materials, provide learning opportunities, and to convey
practical advice  such as: basic site assessment, required
equipment, Good Agricultural Practices, licensing requirements,
and market opportunities for farming tree sap-based foods.

Project objectives from proposal:

The primary objective of this project is to increase the
knowledge of regional extension agents and other professionals
that provide education and training to agricultural landowners
through field training on the procurement, processing, and
marketing of edible sap-based tree products like maple syrup.
Farmers need a range of informed advice to help understand
variables, mitigate risk with new farm products, and generally
improve their odds of success. For example, a farmer might ask:

  • Do I have the right abundance of trees on the right slope?
  • How does sugaring fit into my farm planning?
  • Should I collect by bucket at each tree or with a vacuum
    tubing system?
  • How do I set up different procurement systems correctly?
  • What tools are needed for sugaring and how are they used
  • How do I manage a sugaring operation alongside an elk herd?
  • How do I keep sap from spoiling in collection tanks and then
    transport it to a processing point?
  • Should I be using propane, wood, or another fuel type for
  • How do I manage my trees for tapping alongside other farm
  • What are the food safety considerations for the products I
    want to make?
  • How do I clean and properly store a system between tapping
  • How can we set up a sugaring collective or cooperative
    between farmers in my area?
  • What other types of products and markets are there for
    sap-based products other than syrup?

A second objective is to improve the capacity of extension
offices and other professional development agents (e.g.,
community college farm program development coordinators) to
incorporate sugaring information and opportunities into their
existing county events (e.g., fairs, workshops, conferences) and
to create or foster sugaring specific special events like maple

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.