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Extension Education Highlight: Bigtooth maple tree syrup production

 Syrup dripping from a tap in a maple tree.
USU Extension

Sariah Israelsen: This is Utah Public Radio, and I'm Sariah Israelsen. Thanks for joining us again this week for USU Extension Educational Highlight.

Greg Witt, head of the nonprofit Woodland Hills Outdoors is here to talk to us about the USU Extensions bigtooth maple project that they are a part of. Welcome, Greg.

Greg Witt: Well, thank you.

Sariah Israelsen: So, you said that this project is just a group of friends and neighbors that have gotten together and have kind of partnered with USU right now. So how did that all start?

Greg Witt: Well, it really started about a year ago, when we started with five maple trees. And we live up here in Woodland Hills, Utah, and we're at an elevation of 5000-7000 vertical feet. And that's where the bigtooth maple grows.

So, it's an ideal environment for producing things with maple syrup. So, last year, we tapped five trees. And we submitted our results on an online database, managed by Utah State University. And I got a call a few weeks later saying, "Hey, this is this is pretty interesting. You have some good output, and we're wondered if you might be interested in being a demonstration site for a grant that we have from the USDA."

And so we agreed to that. And we talked about it with neighbors and got a lot of positive feedback. And so this year we are tapping 500 maple trees here in Woodland Hills. And it's all just a result of the help and the support with that from Utah State University.

Sariah Israelsen: That is quite a big leap from five to 500.

Greg Witt: That is quite a leap. It may be more than we can handle. But it's exciting to see the growth so fast.

Sariah Israelsen: So, what do you hope comes from all of this? I know you guys are doing workshops, and different things like that. What is the purpose of doing the workshops and having these maple trees?

Greg Witt: Well, I think that the grant wants to see if they can expand maple syrup production beyond just the Northeast. And there's a limited amount of maple syrup production in Washington state and in Oregon, but they have big leaf maple trees.

And so, what we have here in Utah is Big Tooth Maple trees. And so, we have a unique product. We are the only commercial producers of Big Tooth Maple Syrup. And it's a wonderful product, high quality syrup — high quality products that are very distinctive from the maple syrup that you might buy at any store like Costco or Target or wherever.

Sariah Israelsen: With these workshops that you guys have going on, what are people able to learn about them? And what are they able to experience with these maple trees?

Greg Witt: They learn all the aspects, everything from identifying maple tree sap in the tree, producing the syrup, looking for the right weather conditions and then into the production of the syrup.

The first time we've offered a workshop here in Woodland Hills, I think we had 50 people sign up for it and 64 people showed up. And there was so much community energy and engagement and involvement. And what happened is we have more people interested in tapping maple syrup than we ever expected.

Sariah Israelsen: Greg, thank you so much for coming and talking with me about this. This was such a fun topic to learn about.

Greg Witt: Well, it's just been a fun, fun hobby. And it may have some commercial value. But right now, it's just a bunch of neighbors getting together having fun with common hobby that connects us with each other and with the community and listed beautiful woodland environments and when which we live.

Sariah Israelsen: Well that all sounds pretty exciting. And thank you all for joining us this week for use your extension educational highlight. If you want to learn more about any of this the workshops or USU's involvement with these maple trees, go to Maple Tapping Workshop | Events | USU.