Maple Syrup Collection Jobs
Maple syrup isn’t farmed as much as it is collected, but this is an important part of the agricultural industry as the United States is just one of two countries that produces the sticky substance.
Farms contain sugar maple trees and black maple trees and are typically called “sugar bushes” or “sugar woods.” Most maple syrup farms in the United States are found in Vermont, Maine, and New York, though there are also smaller farms in Wisconsin, Ohio, New Hampshire, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Connecticut that also produce and sell maple syrup or the raw sap from maple trees.
Most of the work on a maple syrup farm is done between January and April. The best weather is when temperatures dip below freezing at night, with days that are quite warm. This causes the sap to flow. Workers harvest the sap by drilling into the maple tree, almost like a doctor would collect your blood. Buckets are hung at the hole of each tree, and the sap-filled containers must be collected at least once a day to prevent overflowing. Some farms use a system of tubs to vacuum the sap out of each tree.
Farms hire workers to drill new holes every year, as the tree will heal itself over time, just like you’ll heal from a cut. If the new holes are drilled too early, they’ll have to be drilled again, so most farmers wait to be sure that every day is consistently above freezing by mid-morning before beginning the annual collection. Once the buckets are collected, the sap is taken to a sugar house, where it is stored in tanks until processing.
Most farms that collect sap produce their own maple syrup, though some sell raw sap to larger companies. Workers boil the sap, and over time it reduces and clarifies to give the right consistence and taste to the product. It takes about 10 gallons of raw tree sap to make just one quart of finished maple syrup. Some companies add other ingredients to the mixture at this point, which gives flavor to the syrup.
When it reaches the right density, the syrup is poured hot into bottles, which are cooled and labeled for sale.
Some maple syrup farms also hire workers to cook and run retail stores. Many sugar houses have seasonal restaurants that serve dishes made with maple syrup fresh from the trees. This work is often seasonal, but retail shops at these farms may stay open throughout the entire year, depending on the size of the farm. Maple syrup farmers may also hire people to give tours, as tourists often come to states that produce maple syrup, especially Vermont, to see the process.