Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Community Development and Applied Economics

First Advisor

Amy Trubek

Second Advisor

Travis W. Reynolds


Harvesting the sap of maple trees [Acer saccharum] for use in the production of syrups and sugars has a storied history stretching back to the pre-Columbian practices of North America’s indigenous peoples. Since its adaptation by European settlers in the late seventeenth century and into the present day, the production of maple syrup has become especially integral to the livelihoods and cultural identities of farmers in Vermont. While oftentimes esteemed as a timeless agrarian tradition, market forces and environmental changes have led maple syrup producers (or sugarmakers) to adopt new production practices that scarcely resemble the taps, buckets, and draft animals which feature so prominently on promotional packaging material.

Adapting to challenges posed by climate change, competition in commodity markets, and a shifting regulatory environment is necessary for maple producers. However, maple enterprises differ in fundamental ways that can shape their perceptions of risks and their willingness – or ability – to adapt. Regional stakeholders – especially maple consumers – are also aware of the pressures bringing change to the industry and concerned about what the consequences entail for producers, communities, and rural landscapes.

This thesis uses data collected from surveys of Vermont residents and maple sugarmakers to explore consumers’ purchasing behavior and how producers prioritize different threats to their enterprise. I first examine how the ways consumers define local products and perceive threats to the regional maple industry affect their willingness to pay for “Made in Vermont” maple syrup. Then I show how concerns expressed by maple producers to different social-ecological threats relate to specific enterprise characteristics, production practices, and types of maple enterprises. Findings seek to better understand the concerns expressed by Vermont maple producers and consumers – and what implications these attitudes may have for the industry.



Number of Pages

134 p.