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maple syrup

Vermont Says 'Thank You' to Massachusetts for Fighting Invasive Beetle

The Vermont maple syrup industry is well aware that an invasive, tree-killing insect could threaten the production of its delicious, all-natural commodity.  So on December 13, just four days before National Maple Syrup Day on December 17, the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association and Vermont state officials hosted a special pancake and maple syrup breakfast to thank partners for supporting the Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) eradication program in Massachusetts.

Why would people in Vermont make breakfast for their neighbors in Massachusetts?  Vermont’s Forest Health Program Manager Barbara Schultz told the group the Asian longhorned beetle poses a significant threat to our northeastern forests and the insect could spread throughout the region and devastate maple sugaring in Vermont if it’s not eradicated in Massachusetts.

Oh Maple Syrup, How I Love Thee. Let me Count the Ways.

Okay, yes it’s Maple Syrup Day, an unofficial holiday, but the day allows us to celebrate and recognize this often underrated commodity. So in honor of this lovely product, here are some interesting tidbits that you may not know.

I use maple syrup on many things; not just pancakes, waffles and French toast, but also in recipes like soups and casseroles, to sweeten granola or oatmeal, even coffee. I’ve used it on ice cream and even snow, on salads and in salad dressings. My own step-father is known to take a shot of maple syrup every now-and-then. It is delightful on its own. Maple syrup can also be used to make maple cream, maple sugar, and maple candy.

A Sweet Camp for Native Youth

Many children look forward to gathering pumpkins in the fall. For some Native American children, another well-loved tradition is gathering maple syrup in early spring.  USDA’s National Institute of Food and Nutrition (NIFA) provides grants to support a unique camp where reservation youth can experience their cultural traditions while learning plant science.

Maple syrup is one of the oldest agricultural products in the United States and is one of the foods the first Americans shared with European settlers. Dr. Steven Dahlberg, director of Extension at White Earth Tribal and Community College (WETCC), used part of a $100,000 NIFA’s Tribal College Extension Grant to support four seasonal camps for at-risk youth, including one where they learn to keep their traditions alive at sugar bush camps.  A “sugar bush” is a grove of maple trees used to produce syrup. Participants also discover how to transform watery maple sap into the syrup we know and love.  In Minnesota, the Fond du Lac, Leech Lake, and White Earth tribes hold sugar bush camps in spring when most trees are full of sap.  No fancy machinery is required here; campers use the traditional method of cooking sap over a wood fire, where it often takes days to process the syrup.

In Vermont the Hills are Alive and the Maple's Flowing

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

Farming is pretty sweet in Vermont. After all, our producers rule U.S. maple syrup production. According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, Vermont’s 1,523 “sugar makers” produced just under a million gallons of this sweet syrup. That’s more than 44 percent of all the maple syrup produced in the United States. The 2015 maple season will be starting soon. Daytime temperatures in the 30s and 40s with nighttime temperatures below freezing are needed for the maple sap to start flowing.

While Vermont’s terrain is excellent for maple trees, our hills and valleys are also pretty ideal for livestock. The dairy sector stands out in Vermont with about 900 dairy farms that generated more than 65 percent of the total value of agricultural product sales in 2012. That’s more than $504 million and makes us one of the top 20 states by value of sales of milk from cows. You have to admit that’s pretty impressive, considering that we are one of the smallest states in the union. More than 428,000 acres of our cropland are dedicated to corn and hay forage crops, largely supporting the dairy sector.

Made In Rural Vermont - Enjoyed Worldwide

What has 40 calories per tablespoon, contains potassium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, Vitamins B2, B5 and B6, the same calcium levels as whole milk, and is completely natural and organic?

Chances are maple syrup wasn’t the first food to come to mind, but it’s true! Real maple syrup has less calories per tablespoon than canola oil, contains 9 essential vitamins and nutrients, and when made properly, it is completely natural, organic and additive free. The benefits to maple syrup are greater than the collection of healthy nutrients inside the product. Maple syrup is good not only for a hot stack of pancakes, but also for America’s rural economy.

Agriculture on the Rise in New Hampshire

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

Agriculture is probably not the first thing that pops into your head when you think of New Hampshire. As the 2012 Census of Agriculture results show, however, farming is a major component of our state’s economy. In 2012, our farmers sold nearly $200 million worth of agricultural products.

Milk production has been one of New Hampshire’s leading agricultural products for decades. In 2012, our milk cows produced more than 3 million gallons of milk, which was worth nearly $55 million. Recently, egg production has been increasing. There were also more than 320,000 chickens in New Hampshire in 2012. As a result, New Hampshire had nearly $13.5 million of poultry and egg sales in 2012.

Boston Beats the Asian Longhorned Beetle

One of the things I consider a highlight of my career and that I will always remember is our successful response to the July 2010 detection of the Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) in Boston, Massachusetts.  As I attended the May 12 ceremony commemorating the eradication of the ALB infestation in Boston and listened to the speakers share their thoughts about what it took to get us there, I had a deep sense of appreciation for the partnership among the state and federal cooperators who worked together to bring us to that day.  It was swift action and continued diligence that protected Boston’s trees from further destruction.

APHIS and its cooperators were able to accomplish the goal of eradicating ALB in Boston in less than 4 years.  Thanks also go to a community member who reported the infestation early.  That early detection and report resulted in the loss of only 6 infested trees.

But as I celebrate our first victory over the invasive pest in Massachusetts, I am compelled to ask you to remain vigilant in inspecting your trees regularly for signs of the beetle and report any suspicious damage to your State Plant Health Director.

USDA Helps Syrup Producers Cut Back on Energy Use but Not Sweetness

In New England – or anywhere for that matter – nothing says the weekend like a short stack fresh off the griddle, covered by its inimitable mate, maple syrup. Whether the color is dark amber or golden light, the flavor is unmistakable. But as we pick up our forks and dig in, how many of us really think about where it comes from or how it’s made?

Did you know the most common tree used is the sugar maple? It grows mostly in the Northeast and Canada.

Production of maple syrup continues to climb, and according to data from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Connecticut saw an increase in maple sugar production with a record 78,000 taps in 2013.

What does Maple Syrup Have in Common with an Invasive Insect?

Today is National Maple Syrup Day!  So, what does maple syrup have in common with an invasive insect?  Well, if the insect is the Asian longhorned beetle, then they both can come from maple trees.  Obviously, we want the maple syrup and not the invasive beetle.  But who cares?  And why should anyone care?  Well, I care and here’s why:

Not only do I work for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, an agency that is actively fighting known infestations of Asian longhorned beetle in three different states, but I also am a native of Vermont.