is the largest maple producer in the United States, accounting for about 40
percent of a domestic crop that’s pushing 3. 25 million gallons annually. The
USDA says Vermont production grew by an eyeball-bursting 261 percent
from 1996 to 2016, going from 550,000 to 1,990,000 gallons of syrup. Yes —
Two. Hundred. Sixty. One. Percent.
Or consider Swanton’s Leader Evaporator, the largest U. S. manufacturer of
maple syrup–producing equipment. It’s a privately held company, so president
and COO Brad Gillilan won’t divulge sales numbers, but he will say, on the
record, that in the last decade, Leader Evaporator’s sales figures have tripled
and his workforce has increased from 50 people in 2006 to nearly 90 today.
“The industry has changed in scope and scale so much in the last decade,”
said Gillilan. “It’s been a pretty wild ride.”
Henry Marckres, the resident maple expert in the Vermont Agency of
Agriculture, Food and Markets, said that in 2004, Vermont hit a benchmark
with 1 million taps in its trees. In 2016, that number ballooned to at least
5 million. “What has happened in the last few years,” he said, “is really
There are indications that maple’s popularity will continue to surge.
Demand in foreign markets, advancements in tapping and production
technology, and the creation of new “value-added” maple products certainly
help. Add the efforts of the Quebec-based maple cartel (see sidebar) that
spearheads international marketing initiatives while simultaneously setting
the worldwide market price at profitable, sustainable levels, and maple’s
bullish future comes into clear focus.
Kyle Humphrey checks
the density of a batch
under boil; testing vials
stand ready; Joe Russo,
chief operating officer of
the Maple Guild, signals
thumbs up; an array of
pipes transfer sap delivered
by trucks into a holding
tank. ABOVE Russo (center)
strides by Humphrey (left)
and Nelson Chapel.