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Maple Syrup Production in Indiana


Prepared by Jeff Settle,Supervisor for the Indiana Division of Forestry's Utilization and Marketing Program

Shortly after the close of the 2003 Maple Syrup season, 177 questionnaires were sent to all known producers of maple syrup in Indiana. 82 individuals promptly responded to the questionnaire resulting in a 46% response rate compared to a 43% response rate in 2002.
For the sake of comparison of similar climatic regions, the results were broken down per two major regions. The dividing line chosen was U.S. Route 40 bisecting the State into a Northern region and a Southern region. 18 questionnaires were returned from the south region and 64 came from the northern region.

Of the producers that responded to the questionnaire, 80% of these folks produced syrup in 2003, a sharp increase from 27% reported in 2002. 14 producers from the southern region and 52 producers from the northern region reported production in 2003.

Almost 30% of the states' total syrup production of 5136.5 gallons was accounted for by three large producers. Northern producers accounted for 3733.5 gallons compared to 4449.7 gallons in 2002 while southern producers generated 1402 gallons, a noticeable increase from 456 gallons reported in 2002.

There are fifty-three counties in the state that have at least one active maple syrup producer. Washington County is home to our State's largest producer. Elkhart County was once again the county with the most reported sugar camps – 29.

The average opening dates were 2/27/03 and 2/14/03 for the north and south respectfully. The average closing dates were 3/20/03 for the north and 3/13/03 for the south. The overall state average for the opening date was 2/26/03 and the closing date was 3/19/03.

The average amount of sugar water (sap) needed to produce a gallon of syrup was 42.2 gallons in the north and 42.1 gallons in the south. The state average was 42.1 gallons of sap to produce a gallon of syrup. The average amount of sap needed in 2003 to produce a gallon of syrup may not be wholly accurate, as quite a few producers do not accurate records of sap inflow. The average amount of syrup produced per camp was 79.2 gallons, down from 104.4 gallons reported in 2002. Most sugar water was produced at the producer's own sugar bush(es), although a state total of over 8,700 gallons of sugar water was purchased from outside producers.

Almost 36,000 taps were utilized in 2003, an average of 437 taps per producer. Of those 36,000 taps, almost 42% of the state's syrup production was accounted for via producers using buckets for sugar water collection. Over 15,000 buckets were used in 2003 for collection purposes. The amount of sugar water collected by buckets accounted for total syrup production of 2758 gallons in the north and 312 gallons in the south region. 50 Indiana maple syrup producers used an average of 303 buckets in their collection operations.
Buckets remain more popular in the north region. The largest single producer utilizing buckets hung over 1550 buckets in the northern region and 450 buckets in he southern half. Several producers reported using plastic bags and tubing in addition to buckets for the collection of sugar water.

Although plastic sap collection bags have decreased somewhat in popularity since their introduction, eleven producers used 3672 collection bags. Producers using bags set on the average, approximately 333 taps. Exceptions are present though with one individual using over 2200 bags for collection. Sap bag collection accounted about 12.5 of the total syrup production, which is up from 8% reported in 2002. On a regional basis, those using plastic sap collection bags were split pretty evenly between the two regions. Six northern producers using 3212 bags collected produced 440 gallons of syrup and five southern producers using bags produced 204 (up from 21 in 2002) gallons of syrup in 2003.

A number of producers are trying tubing for sugar water collection and are slowly changing over as terrain, dollars and results allow. Statewide, 14 persons (10 in the northern region and 4 in the south) used over 9000 feet of tubing for collection purposes in 2003. Those using tubing produced 1597 gallons of syrup. This is a large increase from the data reported in 2002 (483 gallons). This amounts to 114 gallons per producer.

The statewide average price received for a retail gallon of syrup was $32.23. The average per gallon price was slightly higher in the south region at $34.33 versus the north average of $29.87 per retail gallon. The average statewide price received for a quart of retail syrup was $10.53. Statewide wholesale average gallon price was $26.50; there was little variation in wholesale gallon prices per region.
The statistics gathered via our 2003 maple syrup production questionnaire most likely will not reflect the true income generated from Indiana's producers.

The statewide reported syrup income for 2003 (multiplying the average $/per gallon X reported production) is slightly over $165,550. However, if one appreciates that which was consumed via the producers' family, given away, or simply not reported, the calculated dollar figure may very well conservatively grow to about $200,000. Assuming this figure to be realistic, the average dollar return per tap hole is $5.57 which is only .60 less than reported in the 2002 maple syrup producers survey.

Sales do not appear to be a limiting factor for Indiana maple product producers; rather the inability to produce enough syrup due to the unusually warm winter was the greatest impediment to finding our maple fortunes. Prime tapping conditions center on below freezing temperatures of an evening with a fairly fast thaw in the mornings which normally allows for good syrup flow.

This year’s survey indicated (through comments) very separate conditions for the north and the south. 60% of the surveys returned from the north indicated below average conditions while 50% of the respondents from the south indicated above average conditions. Most of the northern comments stated there wasn’t enough thawing in the mornings. It appears the south experienced ideal conditions of cold nighttime temperatures and a good thaw in the morning.

Overall, greater than 90% of the produced syrup is sold at a retail level. Of those reporting sales, over 32% state that at least a portion of their production is given away or consumed domestically; of course these same producers tend to be smaller in scope and production. Packaging preferences show the majority favoring retail sales in gallon containers, fewer favoring quarts, with remainders sold in smaller units. A few producers offer maple sugar, creams, candies, cookies, etc., but apparently these maple products do not account for substantial percentages of any one producer's sales.

We are all aware that each sugar bush has unique characteristics and that no two bushes produce alike. Although Indiana is a relatively small geographic area, the variation in weather is significant as evidenced by prior years. For the most part, respondents stated this year was a below average season, due to reasons discussed previously. For example, data from the last maple syrup production survey (2002) indicated total volume of 4906.5 gallons produced; about 5% less than produced this year.

Fifty-one respondents stated they would like to be listed in the Indiana Maple Syrup Producers Brochure. As time and funds permit, we are hoping to prepare an updated brochure. Additionally, we believe it would be beneficial to have "Indiana generic" maple syrup articles on hand for the barrage of requests from reporters for local newspapers and other media come next February, 2004.

I sincerely thank all the maple producers for their prompt questionnaire responses. I have updated our maple database and will continue to be a contact for Indiana maple products. Please remember the data compiled in this report will be only as good as the data received. To be able to more accurately report maple syrup production figures, a higher response rate will be needed.

Although my time is limited for personal visits to your operation, I do welcome your calls and inquiries on all facets of maple production. Special forest products such as maple syrup contribute substantially to many rural folk's income while offering wholesome therapy at the same time.