Maple Start-Up Investment Guides and Profitability Research

The age-old question for a farm financial adviser has been “Is the money moving from the business across the kitchen table into the owner’s pockets or is the money moving from the owner’s pocket across the table, out the door-yard and into the business?” There is no question that investment capital is needed for people starting or expanding a modern maple enterprise. UVM Extension has published nine start-up investment profiles to demonstrate the estimated investment required for enterprises at different scales.

Go to the Maple Business Resource Library at www.maplemanager.org to find the investment profile that will help with your planned start-up or expansion. 

The research finds that smaller start-ups might require $50-$60 per tap for the production investment plus an additional $25-$45 per tap for land purchases when the appraisal is $1,500-$2,500 per acre. Larger enterprises from 10,000-20,000 taps could require a slightly lower investment of $40-$50 per tap in production systems plus that same additional $25-$45 per tap if a property purchase is part of the plan.

International Maple Syrup Institute Explores U.S. Promotion Programs
This week the International Maple Syrup Institute Board of Directors will gather for their annual meeting to discuss a number of key issues facing the maple industry. One topic on the agenda will be the progress being made to explore different promotional program options for the United States. As the maple industry grows the IMSI seeks to understand different ways maple producers can work together to expand the market for maple syrup. The research committee plans to produce a series of articles later this year to share how different U.S. specialty crop groups have developed unified promotional programs and the different mechanisms that have been used to organize these initiatives.

New Northeast Maple Benchmark Report
UVM Extension has published the newest report that documents ongoing financial research with maple businesses. The 2020 NE Maple Benchmark is available at www.maplemanager.org on the Maple Business Resource Library page. A deeper look at the results is coming in the July newsletter.

Sign up for program updates when you visit www.maplemanager.org and you will receive the monthly newsletter on maple business development, markets and economics.

Farm Viability Farmer Peer-to-Peer Discussion Cohort

Are you interested in joining a Farmer Peer-to-Peer Discussion Cohort to increase basic business management skills, discuss business needs and share ideas? FREE 12-month program for qualifying farms! Cohort meets for a 4-hour session each month.

You can complete an initial pre-screening intake form here  or contact: Betsy Miller at: betsy.miller@uvm.edu to learn more, for pre-screening and to receive an application.

You must have a value-added component to your farming operation and meet a few other basic requirements, including: a) participant is a Vermont resident, b) participant has 3 years of experience working and managing farm operations and c) the farm business generated at least $15,000 of gross sales in the previous year. UVM Extension Farm Viability provides assistance referring all applicants that do not meet eligibility criteria to other programs and services available to them. Waivers from the eligibility requirements may be requested and are considered on a case-by-case basis.

UVM Extension Farm Viability offers business planning and technical assistance services to all qualifying Vermont farmers, as part of a statewide effort to improve the economic viability of Vermont agriculture. Once enrolled, all farms meet and work with a ‘lead’ farm business planner usually over a 4 – 12 month basis to produce a written business plan and/or complete other business analysis projects. In the second year, farmers who have completed a full business plan or farm transfer/succession plan are provided with ongoing technical assistance to monitor their progress in implementing their plan.

County Mayo, Ireland, Sept 2013

Sap Selling Season

A sap hydrometer measures the sugar content in a load of sap.

Maple sap harvesting has been underway in many US regions. Now well into March, the season is in full swing.

If you are in the business of selling sap or thinking about starting to, UVM Extension has business resources available to help. For example, you can use our Sap Pricing Calculator to determine the price per gallon paid to the seller or determine  Profit and Loss from Sap Hauling

The Economic Advantage of Sap-Only
Specializing in sap production and selling sap in a business-to-business transaction offers many advantages. Sap sellers are able to reduce their capital investments and focus specifically on sap production activity. Recent research shows that sap-only enterprises may require just 50% of the capital investment compared to a similar sized sap-to-syrup processing business. A typical 5,000 tap enterprise on previously owned property is estimated to require $100k-$120k in sap collection investments. For the same enterprise to invest in syrup processing capacity at least another $110k in capital start-up is expected. Sap sellers can focus their labor and attention to high yielding sap harvest systems without spreading skills and attention into the business of syrup processing, grading, packaging and sales.

Syrup processors see a significant advantage from sap purchasing as well. The investment in a sugar house and the processing equipment is significant. Many syrup processors are seeing the benefits of sizing their facility in order to purchase-in additional sap and increase their equipment usage to enhance profitability. These relationships also enable successful maple brands to supply more customers and focus on the market development logistics to expand maple demand.

Visit www.maplemanager.org for more maple business resources.

Registration is Open for UVM Maple Business Short Courses

UVM Extension offers two online short courses for current and prospective maple producers that begin in late October. Each course includes four classes (1.5 hours each), once per week, and teaching assignments that get participants completing real time analysis and making immediate decisions to enhance their business. Registration in now open for the Maple Business Planning and Maple Financial Planning short courses.

For more information see the course descriptions and registration information on the Events page at www.maplemanger.org. Or click the file below to view or share the informational flyer.

Maple Market Insights

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, with the Atlantic Corporation, has created an online interface that enables users to explore results from a 2020 Northeast United States consumer preferences survey.  Maple sellers can run interactive analyses of the results from over 1,500 participants at The Maple Data Dashboard to investigate the market demand for maple products.

UVM Maple business has published the summary fact sheet Maple Market Insights with key findings from the market research and the link to the interactive Maple Data Dashboard at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture website.

UVM Agricultural Business is Hiring: Online Education and Communications Coordinator

Overview: University of Vermont Extension has three projects in 2021-2022 that include online education events, project webpages and communications initiatives to disseminate project resources to target stakeholders. UVM is seeking an experienced individual capable of coordinating ongoing online educational events and developing a multi-media communications plan to expand the reach of the projects. The selected candidate will work closely with the maple extension specialist and maple business project directors, oversee 3rd party consultants and coordinate external services to implement the communications plan. This is a part time position.

View the job summary with application instructions.

UVM Maple Webinar Series Begins in July

Maple syrup sample jars (Credit: Mark Isselhardt)

University of Vermont maple, business development and forestry specialists will present a series of online webinars starting July 21st 2021. Session information and registration is now available for eight sessions offered from late July through October. Register now on the Upcoming Events page at www.maplemanager.org or download the program schedule here: UVM 2021 Maple Webinar.

Topics will include: red maple syrup research, forest carbon, financial benchmarks, maple start-up investment profiles, sap-only enterprises, Northeast forest tax policy and more. Presenters will include: Abby van den Berg (Research Associate Professor), Anthony D’Amato (Director UVM Forestry Program), Mark Isselhardt (Maple Specialist), Mark Cannella (Extension Associate Professor) and Chris Lindgren (Forest Business Coordinator).

Register Today at www.maplemanager.org !

New Maple Business Reports – Summer 2021

Sap hydrometer measures sugar content.

The UVM Extension Maple Business program has published several new resources for maple business owners and forest landowners. The following publications add to the growing list of guides and financial planning calculators at www.maplemanager.org:

Legal Entity Structures for Maple Producers: This guide describes several legal entities appropriate for single or multiple owners of a maple business. Set-up and maintenance considerations for LLC’s, LLP’s, partnerships and joint ventures will help existing and new owners find the right entity to meet their ownership goals.

Joint Venture Template: This document includes the major considerations that partners should discuss and agree upon when setting up a joint venture.

Northeast Maple Business Benchmark (2019): This most recent report summarizes financial performance and business metrics from a sample of maple enterprises in the northeast United States. Business records from 6,000 – 60,000+ taps maple businesses demonstrate investment requirements, cost of production and profitability.

Visit www.maplemanger.org for maple business development and forestry resources today.

Did I Make A Profit Last Year?

by Betsy Miller UVM Extension Farm Business Educator

This time of year finds the staff of UVM Extension Agricultural Business holding one-on-one budget/business coaching sessions around the state. Typically, these are a time to prepare year-end financial statements or a budget for the coming year, discuss capital investments and anticipated changes to the business, and/or do some financial analysis of the business.  This year as we help farmers prepare their year-end statements and review the past year, we are seeing many farms that received CARES Act or VCAAP funds. 

While wrapping up my work with one farmer, they commented that at least they made a profit in 2020. Technically, yes, the bottom line was black. On the one hand, they are right to feel relieved. In a very trying year when all was said and done the government funds provided the relief they needed and kept them going. On the other hand, however, this doesn’t necessarily mean that their business was profitable.

When a farm takes in a significant amount of extraordinary income—in this case relief funds— how do we interpret the financial statements to assess the performance in the fiscal year? In the case of the VCAAP funds, they were based on a farm’s “normal” operations and meant to replace the measurable impact of the pandemic on the business. In theory, the addition of these funds could help to normalize the cash flow impact and the result would be a “typical” year. Other relief funds were not as directly tied to replacing lost income and therefore the result is more nebulous.

As I’ve reviewed farm financial statements this year, I’ve concluded that when we record 2020 financials, we should report them with an asterisk and be careful not to draw too many conclusions about the health or profitability of the farm based upon them. Projecting for 2021 and beyond will be challenging as we try to predict what “the new normal” will look like. Don’t let 2020 derail you from efforts to achieve your financial goals.

New Report: The Impact of Covid-19 on Farm and Food Businesses in Vermont

A new report has been published by University of Vermont that documents how Covid-19 has impacted food system businesses in Vermont.  The report, authored by Meredeth Niles and several other researchers, is available online here: “COVID-19 Impacts on Vermont Farms and Food Businesses: Pivots, Needs and Opportunities for the Future”

Here is a summary below:

This report highlights results from a survey of Vermont farm and food businesses conducted during August and September 2020, with a total of 223 respondents. The survey was distributed via a number of non-profit, business, and state agencies in Vermont. Respondents included farms, food and farm product retail, agritourism operators, on-farm food processors, food and beverage manufacturers, nurseries/greenhouses/garden centers, and food hubs/aggregators. Overall, we find the majority of respondents experienced a COVID-19 business impact, especially in market and financial ways. We also find that the majority of respondents had business changes they wanted to make, but couldn’t because of a lack of financial resources, inadequate equipment, or personal challenges. While the majority of respondents didn’t apply for COVID-19 grants and programs, those that did were significantly more likely to agree they had the financial resources to make necessary business changes. We also identify help recovery strategies including the need for market assistance to shift to online platforms. Finally, we identify that the majority of respondents indicated perceived stress at the time of the survey, further highlighting the need for mental health resources related to COVID-19. We discuss future opportunities for recovery efforts and resilience in the Vermont food system.