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Millions of gallons of maple syrup lie unsold in barns, sugarhouses and storage units

This letter was sent to the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers' Association and Henry Marckres, consumer protection section chief for the state of Vermont.

 

Dear Mr. Marckres,

I was totally shocked to learn in the Vermont Press Bureau article in Sunday’s Times Argus that Vermont sugarmakers have been unable to sell their product and that millions of gallons of syrup lay moldering and rotting in barns, abandoned sugarhouses and storage units with unpaid rental fees. Vermont has a surplus of unsold syrup? I would never have guessed; in fact, it is my understanding that demand exceeds production.

“Golden Delicate, Amber Rich, Dark Robust and Very Dark Strong.” Are you serious? You think we should call our native nectar by these names? Are you unaware of the Eat More Kale controversy? I can almost guarantee that you will be sued by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters for name infringement. Those are not names for syrup; they are fancy terms for designer coffees, for cripes sakes. Does this mean that in the foreseeable future we may see cachet names for composting compote? “Mildly aromatic with overtones of canned fruit cocktail and just hint of decomposition at the end.” Male bovine fecal material instead of the universally known term for oral effluent?

You are quoted as saying that the new “flavor descriptors” will make it easier for consumers to know exactly what they are buying. For God’s sake man, if you don’t know you are buying Vermont syrup, what are you doing in a store without a guardian? For decades the alphabetical designation of syrup grades worked like well boiled sap – no confusion for informed consumers, which should be the only ones purchasing Vermont syrup. Then someone, in marketing I assume; not production, came up with the new grades of multiple shades of amber. I believe this is used to describe millions of acres of wheat – “For amber waves of grain.”

Marckres, however, says that while “fancy” may have meaning to Vermonters, it’s arcane culinary terminology in the major metropolitan areas where the state ought to be marketing its market. Since when do we need CCT (Correct Culinary Terminology) to sell syrup? After all it comes out of a tree that birds poop in, dogs pee on and bureaucrats can’t tell from a spruce. If “city folk” can’t tell what they are buying, then maybe we should adopt the fossil fuel industry nomenclature; they might get the hang of that. Sell our stuff by 10W40T (10 weight, 40 taste) grading system. That might also mean that it could be recycled or leftovers disposed of at your local solid (liquid) waste collection site.

As a multi-generation Vermont native, it really is intimidating to think I am going to have to read a brochure, attend a marketing seminar and possibly be forced to rely on the advice of out-of-staters to buy my damned syrup, made by a relative as it has been for centuries. Oh yes, all this flailing about won’t make a mite of difference in the taste of specific gravity of the stuff.

 

Steve Joslin lives in Graniteville, VT.

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