The Rural Economy of New England: A Regional Study

By John Donald Black | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 25
Maple Products

In his History of Vermont, written in 1846, Hosea Beckley states that maple sugar"is becoming more and more an object with the farmers here not only to supply themselves with this article of domestic use and comfort but a portion to spare to their neighbors." A report of the Board of Agriculture of Vermont in 1886 says that "the sugar product is so much sought for by speculators that the price of a good article has been on the increase for the past few years."1 These statements furnish the key to the changing economy of maple sugar and syrup production of New England. There have been changes in the conditions of its production, and the techniques employed; but most of the story is written in terms of changing utilization and market outlets.

In colonial days, the maple tree supplied the farm family in much of New England with its only supply of sugar; and the surplus of the farms was traded in at the local stores and forwarded to the cities to be used in place of the West Indian brown sugar which many could not afford. Some of it was even used as a cheap adulterant of West Indian brown sugar. When the price of West Indian sugar fell, maple sugar had to be satisfied, so far as the cities were concerned, with only that demand that came to it because of its own distinctive flavor. Many farm families of course continued to use it as their sugar supply because they could produce it on their own farms and save their scanty cash income for other things. Also no doubt many families on farms and off kept on using it in considerable quantity along with cane sugar because they had grown up on it and liked its flavor. The hold on consumption thus retained combined with the increasing demand for it in cities

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1
These and other historical citations and statements are largely drawn from Vermont Bulletin 285, by John A. Hitchcock, Economics of the Farm Manufacture of Maple Syrup and Sugar ( 1928). Hitchcock was agricultural economist at the Vermont Agricultural Experiment Station and head of the agricultural economics department from 1932 until his death in 1944.

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