Maple syrup season has begun at Stockton University in Galloway. The goal of the $410,000 three-year U.S. agriculture department grant is to promote awareness and production of maple syrup in both traditional and non-traditional production regions.

South Jersey is one of those non-traditional production regions. Aaron Stoler, assistant professor of environmental sciences, said the money is being used to promote more people tapping their trees and getting some enjoyment out of their land, possibly creating a small industry in the state.

This fall, 20 private property owners in the region joined Stockton and have begun the process of tapping trees.

Stoler said because it is a federally funded grant, Stockton officials cannot sell the syrup that is produced on campus. "What we're trying to do at Stockton University is demonstrate a workable operation, create a visual tour guide for people who are interested in creating their own industry," said Stoler.

Stockton is interested in researching what areas are best suitable for maple syrup production. On campus, they are tapping about 100 maple trees on three acres of land, hoping to expand next year.

Those residents who are helping out with the project will receive the necessary supplies from Stockton. They will collect the sap and keep any of the syrup that they produce. All Stockton asks is that they're allowed to come onto the resident's property and take samples of the soil during the summer. They also ask that residents keep good records of the amount of sap that they collect, how much syrup they produce and how it tastes.

Stoler said once sap is collected from a tree, it comes out as 2% sugar. Once it's boiled, it will jump to 70% sugar. The rule of thumb is that it takes about 40 gallons of raw sap to make just one gallon of maple syrup.

The ultimate goal of asking volunteers to tap trees for syrup is to get an estimate for the best type of land that produces maple sap.

The project requires that residents have about 5 to 10 acres of land with at least 10 maple trees on that land in order to tap. Stockton will give supplies for about 10 trees.

The other type of volunteer is any resident in South Jersey who has maple trees on their property. They are just looking to tap their tree.

"We are purchasing supplies for people who are interested in that and are looking to get into it as a hobby. We are more than happy to get you through the process," Stoler said.

He quipped that residents should be on the lookout for pancake fundraisers in the future.

For more information, send an email to maplegrant@stockton.edu.

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