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Purdue University, University of Kentucky helping to increase “green” maple syrup production

A multi-university study will focus on sustainable, scalable practices such as energy-efficient production and sustainable forest management


Responding to growing consumer demand for environmentally friendly goods, Purdue University and the University of Kentucky are collaborating on a transformative project to expand sustainable maple syrup production. The study will take place in Indiana and Kentucky’s central hardwood region, focusing on sustainable, low-carbon syrup production.

The project is directed toward developing a model for “green” maple syrup cooperatives such as energy-efficient production and sustainable forest management.

“Fostering co-ops of green maple syrup production will not only create economies of scale, thus lowering the average cost of energy-efficient production, but also reduce the average carbon footprint per unit of production,” said Mo Zhou, associate professor of forest economics and management in Purdue’s College of Agriculture and principal investigator of the grant.

Previous maple syrup research at Purdue, made possible through a $500,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture Acer Access and Development Program grant, found that consumers will pay a higher price for maple syrup sourced from sustainably managed forests, but the amount depends on the sustainability label. The grant’s focus has been on increasing consumption and production of maple syrup through an integrated marketing strategy over a three-year time span, in partnership with the Indiana Maple Syrup Association.

“Our goal is to integrate economic viability with environmental sustainability,” said Thomas Ochuodho, associate professor in the University of Kentucky’s Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, part of the Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. “We’re looking to demonstrate that ‘green’ maple syrup production is beneficial for the environment and economically feasible for producers in the central hardwood region.”

The initiative has four main objectives:

  • Understanding the motivations for voluntary co-ops: The project will investigate why producers choose to join co-ops and how these cooperatives could support sustainable practices.
  • Developing a proof of concept for green co-ops: Through research and practical trials, the team aims to create and refine a model for environmentally friendly maple syrup production co-ops.
  • Profiling potential green producers and predicting impacts: The project seeks to understand and predict the broader economic impacts of a more sustainable maple syrup industry by identifying potential green producers and lessors.
  • Promoting green production: Through targeted educational efforts, the project aims to encourage more producers to adopt sustainable practices.

The study will place emphasis on educational activities to spread knowledge — encouraging the adoption of green practices among maple syrup producers and landowners. These efforts, supported by the findings from comprehensive surveys and research, will use educational tools and materials well-suited to the needs of local producers.

Both universities hope to see a substantial increase in the production of sustainable, low-carbon footprint maple syrup, driving economic benefits for producers while significantly reducing the environmental impact of syrup production across the region.

Funding for this project is made possible by a grant from the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA.

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