With the advent of many organic products and the consumers desirability to have organic foods as a means to be the most health conscious as possible, we are often asked if our Maple Syrup is Organic. The best answer is yes however we are not USDA Certified Organic. Our maple woods has been established for generations without any applications of pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers or other products and remains in a healthy naturally organic state. Most of the issues associated with organic agriculture just are not involved here. Although USDA certification would be helpful at times,the small producer certification costs often outweigh the benefit.
With that said, what else does the organic Maple Syrup practices provide? Well, there are a number of rules that differentiate the organic maple syrup from the conventional and one of those is that the producer must have a written forest plan that promotes sustainable forestry. In addition, the number of taps that can be placed on a single tree is regulated to only two. This prevents over-tapping and also provided good forestry management. Along with the detailed record keeping of number of trees tapped, gallons of sap boiled, sap sugar content and much more are necessary to maintain certification once achieved.
The maple syrup production process is also regulated in that the producer cannot use any harsh chemicals whether in cleaning the evaporator pans or sap tubing. In our case, we use plastic bags that are designed for collecting sap and we discard them after the syrup season each year. We also use stainless steel where ever we can which includes our sap spiles and our evaporator, pails, syrup finisher and canner as well as our utensils. Our process also uses an acceptable organic anti-foam which is plant based to keep the sap from boiling over the evaporator pan when needed, Animal byproducts such as fat are not permissible to qualify as organic.
Lastly, the trees must be a defined distance from any road that may have sprays or salt applied during the summer or winter seasons. In addition, the same is true of any crops that may be sprayed with pesticides or other chemicals. Our maple woods is surrounded by land certified as organic and thus, the woodlot is well protected from any exposure to chemicals.
With organic certification, maple syrup is more expensive as a result of these practices and is often in demand from consumers regardless of the price. On the other hand, many maple syrup producers follow these practices without being organic certified as a principle and often will answer the organic question with a “near organic’ or “organic” answer. The USDA certification sticker is white and green and means that the product is USDA Certified Organic and is the distinguishing mark that differentiates organic from conventional maple syrup. For the most part, only a small percentage of Michigan’s maple syrup is certified organic.