First, I'm not trying to sell you anything, just offer a little encouragement to folks who have considered making syrup. I am a retiree living in central Missouri and a "maple syrup enthusiast" who has been tapping trees since 2014. I love the taste of the syrup; it is much more flavorful than commercially available pancake syrup, and I like being active in the winter. There are vast resources of trees in Missouri that could be tapped, and there is a growing demand for natural, locally grown products. I am trying to get more Missourians to try making it as a hobby or as a seasonal business, so that the use of this Missouri resource can increase.
The best time to learn about syrupmaking is now! You will need time to research the process, see how others do it, and get the supplies needed to make a product that is worthy of your pancakes. Typically, the reliable sap flow in mid-Missouri begins around mid January and continues for about 6 weeks before the tree budding causes sap quality to deteriorate. Sap flow occurs in trees when daytime temperatures are above freezing after a night with below freezing temperatures.
How much sap will a tree produce? Cloud cover, snowpack, wind, changes in atmospheric pressure, soil moisture conditions, tree health, size of leaf canopy, and amount of direct sunlight affect sap production and its sugar content. Similar trees adjacent to each other may have entirely different productivity. In good conditions, an average tree will produce 20 gallons of sap in a season. Seems like a lot doesnt it? But when you consider that 40 gallons of sap are needed to yield 1 gallon of syrup, you can appreciate the work needed, not just to handle the sap but to evaporate all of that water. 20 gallons of sap could produce a half gallon of syrup- maybe enough for your family for a year?
If you have never tried REAL maple syrup, may I suggest you buy a small bottle during your next shopping trip; it will probably be from Canada or a northeastern state. I think you will be amazed at the flavor characteristics. You may prefer it to the supersweet thick corn syrup products from the big brands. If you are looking to buy real Missouri maple syrup, it is a RARE commodity. Try contacting your local farmer's market; consumer inquiries will help get the word out to grove owners that there is an unmet demand for it. My hope is that this website eventually leads to Missouri syrup becoming more available. Please forward a link to this website to anyone who may have interest in syrupmaking.
In the spring of 2020, the staff of the Center for Agroforestry at the University of Missouri applied for a federal grant that is aimed at increasing the production of maple syrup in the U.S. If the grant program is still available after federal covid-19 changes, and awarded, the grant will be publicized in late 2020 and then in upcoming years, Missouri landowners will be able to access new educational materials and attend workshops.
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A 2017 survey by the US Department of Agriculture found that of the Missouri farms reporting, a total of 333 gallons of maple syrup were produced. Most of the producers with whom I am familiar did not participate in the survey, (because they are not farmers!), and I estimate their total annual production to be in the range of 1000-1200 gallons. By comparison, in 2017, Vermont produced about 2 million gallons. Although Missouri has only a fraction of the sugar maple trees of Vermont, there is tremendous upside potential for production here. At one time, maple syrup was a major source of sugar for Missourians. In 1870, Missouri produced over 16,000 gallons of syrup and over 100,000 lb of maple sugar.
My name is John Stolwyk, I am a retiree who grew up in Webster Groves, attended college in Rolla, worked in Kansas City for 31 years, and now lives in Columbia. Our sugarbush is west of Jefferson City. I have been making syrup with the help of family for 7 years. We started small in 2014 with only about 60 trees, and made 12 gallons. Like so many other syrupmakers, we seek to make more each year, and in a recent year we made 25 gallons of syrup from 200 maple trees. In other seasons, I enjoy gardening, woodworking, biking on the Katy trail and travel. One of these years, the grandkids will be big enough to collect sap with me. That will be fun!
Please direct any questions to me about syrupmaking on the Contact page of this website. I'm not an expert, but I do a lot of reading and I have met numerous syrupmakers here in Missouri, as well as a few in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. I will try to respond promptly when not in the woods or watching the grandkids! And if you know someone with maple trees, please let them know about this website.