Stockton University Looking for Maple Syrup Makers

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Stockton University is doing a pilot program on making maple syrup locally. (Photo courtesy Stockton University)

Bring on the pancakes.

A team of Stockton faculty members has been awarded a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to promote maple sugaring in the South Jersey region through research and community outreach.

The group is looking for South Jersey property owners who want to produce their own maple syrup from red maples on their properties.

The Stockton grant involves using modern technologies such as reverse osmosis and vacuum assist pumps to implement an extensive sapping system on Stockton’s main campus.

In addition, the grant is establishing a community outreach program of traditional sapping methods on individual properties in the South Jersey area.

The project team is looking for area residents who have access to multiple red maple trees and are willing to invest the time to collect and process the sap into syrup, starting this winter.

Materials and training will be provided. Participants keep the syrup and are asked to record yields and allow a Stockton research assistant to collect soil and vegetation samples from the property.

Three years of data will be collected and the faculty will use the data to investigate the science and economic potential of a maple syrup industry in non-traditional syrup production regions, such as southern New Jersey.

Maple-sugaring operations have never developed in these regions due to the relative rarity of sugar maple trees (Acer saccharum) and shorter duration of freeze-thaw cycling necessary to draw sap from trees.

These same regions do have an abundance of other maple species, such as the red maple (Acer rubrum). Although red maple sap contains half the sugar content of sugar maple, the use of modern technology, including vacuum assist sap pumps, reverse osmosis and highly efficient evaporators, is now available to draw additional sap from trees and concentrate sugar with greater ease than previously known.

“The ultimate goal of the grant is to encourage maple syrup production by home hobbyists and commercial sellers in New Jersey and similar locations in the Mid-Atlantic,” Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and lead investigator on the grant Aaron Stoler said. “To this end, research questions will specifically address issues of sap volume, syrup quality, ecological forest management and return on investment.”

Other members of the Stockton team include Professor of Mathematics Judith Vogel, Assistant Professor of Environmental Science Jessica Favorito, Instructor of Economics Mariam Majd and Assistant Professor of Environmental Science Matthew Olson.

This is a highly interdisciplinary research endeavor that brings together individuals with expertise in forestry, soil science, economics and biodiversity, according to a release.

“We are passionate about economic and environmental sustainability and look forward to working with the local community,”Stoler said. “And, of course, we all like maple syrup, particularly when it is made locally and poured over pancakes.”

Vogel, whose family already makes maple syrup, said she hopes other residents will develop an interest in maple syrup production.

“We hope landowners get the bug to do this and promote maple syrup production,’ Vogel said.

Anyone interested in participating in the pilot program can contact Judith Vogel at Judith.vogel@stockton.edu.

Stockton is hoping more people will develop an interest in maple syrup production. (Photo courtesy Stockton University)