MU professor uses grant to educate on turning sap into syrup

Tuesday, March 5, 2013 | 8:10 p.m. CST; updated 8:47 p.m. CST, Tuesday, March 5, 2013

COLUMBIA — Forestry students are tapping maple trees this week to turn the sap into  “MUple syrup,” a new product to pour over pancakes.

The MU Ag Foundation provided a $15,000 grant to get students and landowners involved in the production of maple syrup. The result was a business plan to brand, bottle and distribute MUple (mew-ple) syrup with a black-and-gold label.

The program is under the supervision of MU Forestry Professor Richard Guyette who is working with 10 students at the university's Baskett Wildlife Research and Education Center near Ashland.

The grant allowed them to purchase 100 taps and a new evaporator, used to remove water from the sap. Students have been building the evaporator, collecting firewood and drilling tap holes for two weeks, Guyette said.

Peak sugaring season in Missouri occurs when temperatures are below freezing at night and regularly above freezing during the day, according to the state Department of Conservation.

After gathering the sap, boiling takes place this weekend, and the syrup will be poured into canning jars until the students are ready to bottle. The homegrown product should be available for distribution within the next few months, Guyette said, although plans are still uncertain.

Nicknamed mid-Missouri’s Sugarman, Guyette began his maple syrup operation in 1974 after purchasing land with a number of existing trees. A New York state native, he has maintained his hobby for nearly 30 years.

He said he intends to take a year off to help educate students and landowners about this industry.  

Eventually, the project will involve business students, he said, as well as others interested in further developing the current plan.

“Over the years I've gotten phone calls about maple syrup and what to do,” he said. “This is a potential money maker for landowners in the state.”

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