[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Stockton University has been awarded a second grant of nearly $500,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand maple syrup production in its region, the university announced Dec. 6.
The school received a grant from the USDA last year to promote maple sugaring research and outreach. Both grants are being paid out over a three-year period.
The second grant is earmarked for “production hubs” in South Jersey counties and Philadelphia, each of which will receive equipment to collect sap and produce maple syrup, as well as consulting to set up the operations.
In exchange, hub owners agree to tap trees on their property and receive syrup from local community members.
“The second grant is about getting the industry started. This requires two things: People who are excited to produce syrup and a community that is excited to taste and buy the syrup. We need what Vermont has,” said Aaron Stoler, the Stockton University assistant professor of Environmental Science who is leading the grant team.
Stoler’s team tapped 90 red maple trees last year on the Stockton campus and in local backyards. He said the first grant was about building engagement and excitement, and about developing a sugarbush on campus to show people a Vermont-style sugarbush in southern New Jersey is possible.
This year, about 400 red maples are being tapped, translating into the potential to harvest 4,000 gallons of sap that can be boiled down into 60-80 gallons of syrup.
Approximately a dozen students will be working at Stockton’s sugarbush this season. Production will be managed by the grant’s research assistant Ryan Hegarty.
“It’s been a lot of hard work and long hours in the forest this fall to expand our sugarbush to 400 trees for this tapping season. I have enjoyed nearly every second of it because it is so peaceful and quiet working in the forest,” said Hegarty, who graduated with an Environmental Science degree this year.
The syrup produced at Stockton isn’t yet for sale. While researchers are investigating optimal collection and production methods, all syrup will be donated. But maple syrup will be available for purchase in 2023 to sustain Stockton’s hub by funding repairs and employing students.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]