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Maple syrup industry is trying to set up shop in NJ, will it work? (OP-ED)

While Canada is the leader in maple Syrup production, the United States isn’t far behind. In 2023, 4.2 million gallons of maple syrup were produced within the U.S. As Canada’s reserve of maple syrup hits a sixteen-year low and Vermont sees notable dips in its production, other states within the U.S. are increasing their efforts to step into the industry. The most recent state seems to be New Jersey.

According to the Associated Press (AP), Stockton University in South Jersey is leading the charge. Thanks to the Stockton Maple Project, a project backed by grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the university produces maple syrup with the 300 acres of maple trees surrounding the school. The project is currently in its fourth year.

The director of the Stockton Maple Project, Judith Vogel, remarked on the obstacles that came with producing maple syrup in New Jersey to AP.

“You should never tell a New Jerseyan, ‘It can’t be done,’ because we live for the challenge,” said Vogel. “There were a lot of obstacles to be overcome in bringing maple syrup production to South Jersey, but the work has been fun, and the results have been very sweet.”

While New Jersey isn’t known for maple syrup, the residents of the state have produced maple syrup even before its founding. In 2022, New Jersey’s agriculture department revealed that the state produced 1,817 gallons of maple syrup. While it is nowhere near Vermont, there is a market for it.  

So, why has New Jersey syrup had so much trouble catching on? The likely answer lies with the type of maple tree native to Southern New Jersey, the red maple. 

According to the assistant director of the Maple Project, Ryan Hegarty, red maples generally were not popular for maple syrup production due to their sugar content being “significantly lower” than sugar maples common in Vermont. Compared to sugar maple syrup, red maple syrup is described to be darker, richer, and smokier. Currently, New Jersey’s maple syrup products are concentrated in the towns and cities surrounding the university, and are largely sold at farmers markets.

That said, production is expected to rise to 55 gallons in 2024 according to Hegarty, and considering that it takes “50 to 60 gallons” of sap from red maples to make one gallon of syrup, it’s a huge sign of progress.

However, maple syrup production in New Jersey still has a ways to go before it hits shelves countrywide. Additionally, the rising temperatures due to climate change that continues to hamper the maple syrup industry have also impacted New Jersey’s production.

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