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Sugaring: Inside The Maple Syrup Industry

It’s sugar season in the maple forests of the U.S. and Canada. We’ll look at the secrets of the maple syrup industry, and how it’s dealing with climate change.

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Any minute now, any day, as soon as this winter’s deep cold breaks, the sugaring season will be on.  In the great stands of tapped maple trees – the sugarbush – the sap will run.  The sugarhouses will fire up.  And another harvest of maple syrup will be on its way.  We think quaint, old-timey scenes from Vermont, New Hampshire, up into Canada.  But it’s big business, too.  With a big cartel, big heist history, big concerns about climate change.  This hour On Point:  The sugar season.  We go deep in the woods and the ways of maple sugaring.

— Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Doug Whynott, author, journalist and professor of literature. Author of the new book “The Sugar Season: A Year In the Life of Maple Syrup, and One Family’s Quest for the Sweetest Harvest.” Also author of “Following the Bloom,” “Giant Bluefin,” “A Country Practice” and “A Unit of Water, A Unit of Time.”

David Marvinfounder, president and owner of Butternut Mountain Farm.

From Tom’s Reading List

Boston Globe: A jolt for the science behind harvesting maple sap — “Experiments at the University of Vermont’s Proctor Maple Research Center show that maple sap — the raw material that sugar makers boil into syrup — can be efficiently vacuumed from the decapitated trunks of saplings, sharply increasing syrup production. That’s a radical departure from the centuries-old practice of inserting a small tap a few feet above the base of a mature tree, relying on the force of gravity and internal pressure to draw off the sap.”

Canadian Business Journal: The great Canadian maple syrup heist — ” As Quebec has risen to become by far the world’s leading producer of maple syrup, the federation has evolved into a powerful marketing board with almost absolute control over the provincial industry. Aside from small retail containers at roadside stands, farmers’ markets and the like, all Quebec maple syrup must pass through the federation, which dictates how much each producer can sell, and penalizes unauthorized production and selling. A faction of dissenting producers that defy the federation and supply the black market, when caught, are often fined severely.”

Marketplace — “Canada may hold 80 percent of the world’s maple production, but the U.S. produces its fair share of the sweet stuff. In New Hampshire, Bruce Bascom’s maple farm produces 80,000 gallons of sap per day. His family business, Bascom Maple Farms, is the largest producer in the state, with 300 miles of vacuum pipe to suck the sap out of trees. Bascom’s farm is modernizing the age-old craft of tapping trees and hanging buckets.” 

Read an Excerpt From “The Sugar Season” by Doug Whynott

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