AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage helped promote Maine’s maple syrup Wednesday with the annual tradition of tapping a maple tree on the Blaine House lawn.
According to Lyle Merrifield, president of the Maine Maple Producers Association, the governor’s tree is one of some 1.4 million that will be tapped in the coming weeks, if they aren’t tapped already. The fruits of all that work will be enjoyed by thousands at the end of the month on Maine Maple Sunday, which will involve more than 125 sugarhouses across Maine.
But Merrifield and Walt Whitcomb, commissioner of the Maine Department of Agriculture, said Maine’ syrup industry could and should become a larger part of Maine’s economy. Merrifield said studies have shown that there are about 46 million more maple trees in Maine that are accessible enough to be tapped.
“We could certainly more than double our production and there’s a demand for it,” he said. “We have the potential for far more taps.”
Maine’s syrup production, which reached about 360,000 gallons worth $13 million in 2011, is roughly tied for second-most in the country with New York state. Vermont is by far the perennial leader.
Whitcomb said syrup production is an important component of the natural resources economy and yet another way the state’s forests support its people.
“This is a perfect example of trees being part of our economy,” said Whitcomb. “[Sugaring] is not just a sport. It’s actually an economic driver in some of the rural parts of Maine. In the North Woods, it’s a significant part of the economy.”
Merrifield, asked whether Maine’s maple syrup is in any way better than that from other states, said the following:
“I wasn’t aware that any other states made syrup.”
For a complete list of Maine Maple Sunday events, visit www.mainemapleproducers.com.