Marshall Helps Support Local Maple Syrup Industry

Brea Smith, Reporter

The growing maple syrup industry in West Virginia will see a change soon due to The Robert C. Byrd Institute at Marshall University. They will host a virtual summit highlighting new advancements and what the RCBI has been working on to improve the growing industry.  

Evan Nelson, RCBI’s manager of Agricultural Innovations, has worked on improving sap production since 2020. In 2020, RCBI received a grant for USDA Rural Business Development.  

With the grant money, RCBI was able “to assist 15 new farmers who were interested in maple syrup production.”  

Nelson also added onto that by saying, “With this grant we were able to award 3 people with what we call early-stage funding to help invent a new product or advance a currently existing one.”  

The event—known as TAP or the Appalachian Syrup Producers Virtual Summit—will showcase several new types of syrup taps. Syrup producers will also discuss techniques that decrease time and increase syrup production. 

 According to Nelson, one of the three early-stage funding products is a redesigned syrup tap.  

“This new design will allow for better flow of sap from trees. This, in turn, allow the producer to have more syrup to sell,” Nelson said.   

Another early-stage funding product looked into designing a reverse osmosis machine to cut down on time. The reverse osmosis machine will allow farmers to filter out contaminants and water in a shorter amount of time. For West Virginia, maple season only lasts about six weeks, so it remains important that maple syrup farmers can harvest as much syrup as they can during those six weeks. 

  The summit as a whole aims to share new devices and techniques among syrup producers.  

“We have looked at every aspect of maple production to find ways in which we can both increase the volume of syrup produced and decrease throughput time and cost,” Nelson said.