Some of your questions:

How many taps does Merck have?

2,900 taps

What is the Reverse Osmosis (RO) machine used for?

This RO machine concentrates the sap by removing water molecules — it actually removes 75 percent of the water from the solution.  Reducing the amount of water that must be boiled off saves boiling time, and the clean excess water is restored to the water table.

Can you make maple candy out of any grade of maple syrup?

No, only a light grade — Amber Rich (AR) or Golden Delicate (GD) — is used. Golden Delicate is preferred.

How do you know when to start the sugaring season?

This is determined by watching the weather for a pattern of below-freezing nights and above-freezing days. It’s important not to start boiling too soon or too late — our records show that we typically start tapping in mid-February and wrap up in mid-to late-April.

Do you add anything to make maple syrup?

No, there is nothing added to the sap to make syrup.

Does sugaring damage the trees?

Not if you follow NOFA-VT’s best practices. We follow these organic standards and pay attention to Cornell University’s recommendations to insure that we are operating in ways that protect the health of our trees and our forest.

What does it mean to be organic?

Here’s what it means to us at Merck Forest:

  • We use no lead in any phase of our operations — not in any of the equipment from the taps to the finish pan.
  • We use organic sunflower oil for de-foaming.
  • We tap our trees in accordance with organic regulations. Each tap must be spaced a foot higher or lower and 6 inches left or right from the prior year’s tap hole.
  • We follow forest management practices mandated by NOFA-VT, maintaining a diverse population of tree species.

If you are interested in organic maple sugaring production and management practices, check out NOFA-VT’s Maple Syrup production materials.

Why is there a sticker of a bird on your syrup? We collaborated with the Vermont Audubon Society and made changes to our forest management plan in order to create the optimal habitat for our forest birds. The sticker represents our adherence to the Society’s protocols for this certification.

How do you decide what kind (grade) of syrup you are going to make?

The trees make the decision day-by-day! That is, hormonal changes inside the tree, temperature fluctuations, and microbial activity in the sap alters the chemical makeup of the sap, and determines what grade will be produced during the boil.

How much sap is required to make syrup?

On average it takes 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup if the sugar content of the sap is at two percent. When it is finished, our beautiful syrup has a sugar contact of 66.9 percent.

How hot does it get in the fire box?

1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

How much wood do you use in a season?

We go through approximately 10 cords of fire wood.

How long does it take to boil?

On average  we can boil 2,500 gallons of sap, producing 65 gallons of syrup in approximately three hours. Since the process depends on the sap’s sugar content, the time needed can vary.