Collectively, Michigan maple syrup producers had a banner year of production in 2023 with 195,000 gallons collected—matching 2019 when the state hit a record, according to the United States department of Agriculture (USDA).* Given it takes 40 gallons of clear sap, boiled down to make a gallon of syrup, the accumulative amount of harvested sap last year exceeded 7.8 million gallons.
Over the past 13 years, Michigan has produced over 1.777 million gallons of syrup (an average of 136,000 gallons per year),+ maintaining its #5 in the nation status with an economic impact of $6.975 million in 2023 which was up slightly from $6.945 million in 2021. Maple sugaring also contributes to the overall $104.7 billion agricultural and $24 billion tourism industries here in Pure Michigan, according to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Michigan Economic Development Corporation, respectively.
With a slight winter warm up in the first few days of February, some producers have already been harvesting sap and bottling limited amounts of syrup. A return to normal temperatures is expected by mid-month, continuing through early to mid-March, which may produce an extended the sugaring season and hopefully lead to another year of record volume.
To celebrate Michigan’s oldest agricultural activity, 16 members of the Michigan Maple Syrup Association once again invite Michiganders to experience this unique process during one of three Annual Michigan Maple Syrup Weekends coming up from mid-March through early April throughout both peninsulas:
- March 23-24: Southern Lower Peninsula (south of US10)
- March 30-31: Northern Lower Peninsula (north of US10)
- April 6-7: Upper Peninsula (Including the Michigan State University Forestry Innovation Center in Escanaba (see attached flier).
The respective farms offer a variety of family-friendly activities that provide a chance for people to get a firsthand look at how maple sap is collected, boiled down and turned into sweet maple syrup and other maple treats. Many of the farms offer tours of their operation, including tree tapping demonstrations, samples of their products, recipes for the use of maple syrup and local maple syrup products available to purchase. Attendees are reminded to wear boots as mud and snow may still be abundant this time of the year.
In the spring, as the days get longer and the temperatures rise (thanks to more minutes and hours of sunshine), Michigan’s sugar maple trees begin to release “liquid gold” – the clear sap which is boiled down into sweet and delicious maple syrup. The process dates back to the early Native Americans, before Michigan ever became a state.
Due to its high sugar content of approximately two percent, sugar maple is the preferred tree for tapping, although black maple, red maple, silver maple and ash leafed maple — each with a sugar content of about one percent — can also be tapped to produce syrup. Sugar maple is Michigan’s most common tree species and the northern hardwood forests in which they grow in abundance covers about five million acres. And while some Canadian provinces and New England state area are often recognized as leaders in the maple sugaring industry, Michigan itself has more than three times the number of sugar maples than Quebec or Vermont, meaning the potential for growth is unlimited. Currently, Michigan utilizes less than one percent of its potential maple resources.
As with any agricultural crop, sap changes from farm to farm and region to region, depending on the soil content. The area’s climate and species of trees also play a role in this industry, meaning syrup flavor profiles change from region to region, even within the same state.
Of course, there’s more than just syrup to be enjoyed. Producers of maple syrup are also making candy, ice cream and other sweet treats with their bounty. Even Michigan wineries, breweries and distilleries are crafting beverages with maple sap or syrup for special seasonal offerings.
Michigan Maple Weekend participants
Southern Lower: March 23-24
- Benedict Family Maple, Vermontville
- Butternut Creek Sugar Shack, Mendon
- Hughes Farms Pure Maple Syrup, Springport
- Law Family Farm, North Branch
- MapleWorxz, Caro (Since 1949)
- Shepherd Sugarbush, Shepherd
- Waterford Park and Recreation – Hess-Hathaway Park (formerly Sweetz Beez N’ Treez), Waterford Township
Northern Lower: March 30-31
- Bonz Beach Farms, Onaway
- Delaney’s Wood Fired Maple Syrup, Rose City
- Maple Dale Farm, Atlanta
- Ron’s Pure Maple Syrup | Reetz Family Sugar Bush, West Branch (Since 1872)
- Sweet Success Sugar Bush, Mio
- Out of the Wood Farm, Rapid City
Upper Peninsula: April 6-7
Founded in 1962, the Michigan Maple Syrup Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of maple sugaring in Michigan and the promotion of Michigan pure maple products, representing 130 members around the state.
PHOTO: Out of the Woods Farm, Rapid City