Luke Taylor-Ide, Appalachia Regional Academic Director of Future Generations University, will host a free seminar on maple syrup production Wednesday, June 26, at 6 :30 p.m. at the DirtBean on Third Avenue in Marlinton.
This 60-to-90-minute seminar will focus on maple syrup production opportunities as well as the maple syrup industry in West Virginia in general.
The seminar is free and everyone is welcome to attend.
Taylor-Ide talked about the status of the maple syrup industry in West Virginia, particularly here in Pocahontas County.
“West Virginia is in a very rapid period of growth in our industry,” he said. “I think that many of us who are from the area grew up with it, we know it, we think of it as tied to our culture, but I don’t think everybody realizes how quickly, due some new technologies introduced into the industry, that maple is growing at a commercial level in West Virginia. Over the past two years, we’ve seen more than a twenty percent increase in maple production, and we are coming out of a great year, and we expect to see that number already up, and it will probably continue to rise in the coming years with more and more people getting involved. This is particularly exciting for Pocahontas because Pocahontas and Randolph counties sit right in the middle of the largest density of sugar maples in the entire state.”
To help support and encourage growth in this industry, a new project was recently introduced – Sweet Opportunities.
“Sweet Opportunities is a project that builds upon several years of close partnership and coordination with Future Generations University, the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, and the newly formed West Virginia Department of Agriculture, and the newly formed West Virginia Maple Syrup Producers Association,” Taylor-Ide said. “It is supported by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. The project’s goal is to work with existing producers and landowners who have already invested a lot of money into the evaporation equipment, which is where most of the costs related to maple are. We are also trying to work with nearby landowners who can start by just tapping their trees and then sell that sap to their neighbors. And their neighbors, who are already in the business, will then be able to scale up their production. And I think it is important to note that this collective building out of businesses and getting as many landowners as possible to begin tapping trees, is exactly how many of the New England states, particularly Vermont, have expanded to the production levels that they have reached, and obviously are known for.”
Anyone interested in getting into the maple syrup business will find a wealth of information at this seminar.
“I think it will be extremely helpful,” Taylor-Ide said. “We will have several Pocahontas County producers there to talk from their experience, as well as our lead faculty member who has been doing research specifically on West Virginia maple. So, beyond just explaining how to make it, we’ll talk a bit more about why it’s an exciting opportunity in West Virginia now, and even if you have been doing backyard maple for years, to maybe start thinking about moving into the commercial scope, especially now that its more affordable. And if you don’t know anything about maple, you will leave this seminar with enough knowledge to at least tap a tree and make a little syrup next season.”
For more information about Future Generations University’s Maple syrup program, visit their website at www.future.edu/maple.