Volunteer Frank Vogel demonstrates the process of turning maple sap into syrup to project member and Assistant Professor of Economics Mariam Majd and Stockton facilities workers James A. McIntyre, Jr., and David Wood, who helped prepare the site. (Photo by Susan Allen/Stockton University)

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP – At Stockton University, where there is smoke, likely there is South Jersey maple syrup coming to a boil.

Sap is being made into syrup by the gallons after what began as 90 trees tapped on the Stockton University campus expanded to 400 trees this season. At Stockton’s sugar shack an evaporator fueled with split wooden logs inside a Vermont cast iron stove provide the intense heat needed to boil the sap into syrup.

The Stockton Maple Project also took a big step off campus this year, with the addition of seven hubs throughout South Jersey and Philadelphia where private landowners who are participating in the program can boil down their sap into syrup.

The hubs are: Maples in the Pines in Lower Bank, Burlington County, just outside Egg Harbor City; Appel Farms in Elmer, Salem County; Marshallville Farms in Tuckahoe, and Deeply Rooted farms in Cape May Court House, both Cape May County; Pinelands Preservation Alliance in Southampton, Burlington County; Jefferson Farms in Mantua Township, Gloucester County; and Oak Lane Maple in Philadelphia.

Stockton Maple Project Research Assistant Ryan Hegerty and student worker Abigail Murphy move sap from large collection containers into buckets. (Photo by Susan Allen/Stockton University)

The hubs are not just producing syrup, but also participating in research to determine the viability of a maple syrup industry in New Jersey. The project is funded by two $500,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grants.

“If we do this only one year as part of a grant, that’s not the point,” said Professor of Mathematics Judith Vogel, a coordinator of the project. “To be a success, we have to find ways to do it post-USDA funding. And that’s what we are doing through partnerships with schools and education. That will bring a whole new awareness and will sustain what is being done.”

“The trees are producing sap and going forward, the key is going to be logging the trees to remember which trees produce the most sap and which produce less,” said Bruce Plummer, a retired Coast Guard helicopter pilot and co-owner with wife, Beth, also retired military, of Maples in the Pines.

Appel Farm Arts & Music Center in Elmer, Salem County partnered with Stockton because it was a “unique experience” to help expand hubs,” Heather Yelle said. “Appel Farm has conducted four boils since mid-January, with each boil providing more expertise. It has been exciting to hone the process allowing our color and grade to go from a darker brown to a light golden yellow in just about five hours.”

The maple sugar shack at Appel Farm in Elmer (Photo provided by Appel Farm)

Jeff Tober, farm manager at Rancocas Creek Farm, Pinelands Preservation Alliance in Southampton, Burlington County, said this season is providing an “opportunity to get experience and figure out how it all works.”

At Deeply Rooted Farm in Cape May Court House, Stephanie Wiscott said she isn’t hindered about sap flow that got off to a slow start this year. “So far, we have two pints of syrup (in February) and we are getting ready to do our next batch of sap,” Wiscott said.

In Tuckahoe, Bette Jean Yank at Marshallville Farms was so optimistic about syrup production she ordered bottles as well as custom labels.

“I’m committed to making this project work,” said Yank, who collected five gallons of maple sap Feb. 11.

At the Jefferson Sugar hub in Mantua Township, Chris O’Connell and Mike Farina said sap began flowing the week Feb. 7. He and Farina use a modified home heating oil tank that has been fabricated with a 28-gallon stainless evaporator pan.

The Maple Project set up a demonstration site at Batsto Village and will also present a walking tour of the project at the Pinelands Short Course on March 12 at Stockton University’s Galloway Township campus.

For more information on The Stockton Maple Project visit www.Stockton.edu/maple

Professor of Mathematics and Stockton Maple Project coordinator Judith Vogel (Photo by Susan Allen/Stockton University)

Nanette LoBiondo Galloway

Award winning journalist covering news, events and people of Atlantic County for more than 20 years.