The Sugaring Process

Currently, the Merck Forest sugarbush* has approximately 3,000 taps with the capacity to scale up as we strike a balance between

  • Profit
  • Energy consumption
  • Landscape impact
  • Staff time

In order to model “best practices” in sustainable land use, finding this balance among these elements is an important part of our work.

sugarbush map, sugar how it's made, process
*Sugarbush: a stand of sugar maple trees tapped to harvest maple sap

Sap is harvested with a two percent sugar content; boiling concentrates the liquid to a 67% sugar content, and forty gallons of sap are boiled down to one gallon of maple syrup. Our product is 100% certified organic by the Vermont Organic Farmers, LLC.’s, Organic Certification Program. 

“Off Season” – May/November

  • Downed limbs are removed from the sugaring lines, which are then repaired & cleaned.
  • Tree health is evaluated & trees to be tapped in spring are identified.
  • Vacuum lines are checked.
  • Cordwood is processed and stacked at the Sap House.

Tapping Season – December/January

Trees twelve inches in diameter or greater may be tapped. 

A hole is drilled at a slight upward angle +/- 2 inches deep.

A “spile” or tap is inserted into the hole and  attached to a down-tube; the down-tube feeds into a conductor line. Gravity and a vacuum pull sap down through the conductor line to our “marshmallow”, a storage tank at the saphouse. 

 

Sugaring Season – February/April

Nighttime temperatures plunge and daytime temps rise above freezing in Vermont’s late winter landscape, creating changes in hydraulic pressures within tree tissues. This causes the sap to move up & down from roots to branches.

In round-the-clock sessions, staff run the wood-fired evaporator to boil off excess water, to turn the sap into syrup.