Virginia Tech is Working to Create the Virginia Maple Syrup Association

 

Virginia Tech is working to form a statewide association to assist maple and other tree syrup producers.  There’s strength in numbers, so the association plans to provide help so that individual producers don’t have to go it alone.

Guinevere Unterbrink is a Virginia Tech student, studying Wildlife Conservation with a minor in Forestry, and she is a Maple Syrup Development Intern.

“A syrup producers association in reference to ours, the Virginia Maple Syrup Association, is an organization that serves producers, processors and marketers of maple syrup products and their interests,” says Unterbrink.  “So, this association, it’s primary goal, is going to be increasing knowledge and information on syrup production in the state of Virginia, as well as increasing market opportunities for pure maple syrup in the state.  This association also serves large scale commercial operations as well as smaller backyard producers.  So, the reason I include that is because sometimes people tend to think that this association is only going to be for companies that are selling syrup, but we cater to everyone.  So, you could have one tree that you tap in your backyard and you can be a part of our association.  And we’ll also serve people who make additional tree syrups, so like black walnut syrup, sycamore, beech or birch syrup, as well.”

Unterbrink says a lot of people don’t know that maple syrup is produced in Virginia.   Along with supporting producers, the Virginia Maple Syrup Association will aim to increase awareness among consumers and create a community of all who are interested in the syrup industry.    In addition, the association, as a group, will have a stronger voice to work on legislation, to apply for larger grants and to pursue expansion opportunities.

“We’ll be helping producers find sugaring assistance and information,” says Unterbrink.  “So that’s really valuable for anyone who’s new, along with older producers, because as more research is done we can give that information to them.  Along with access to equipment, access to technical help, market expansion and promotion of high-quality maple syrup, education and information exchange.  So, between producers and other research organizations, like Cornell has a big maple program.  I listen to their podcasts.  We also get to act as a voice for the producers in the state of Virginia.  So, we can not only promote and protect the maple syrup brand in Virginia, but we can also help with regulations, food safety, certifications like organic certification.  We can also support ongoing maple related research.  We can help people benefit from each other’s experiences, so like mentorships, and then finally it allows for training opportunities and special events.”

The Virginia Maple Syrup Association will be mainly virtually based, with in person meetings occasionally.  The association will be primarily run by stakeholders, the producers or marketers, with assistance from Virginia Tech.

For more information, email Unterbrink at guinevereu@vt.edu or Dr. Tom Hammett at himal@vt.edu

Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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