BDN interviews UMaine researchers about maple syrup, honey producer study

The Bangor Daily News interviewed researchers from the University of Maine about their ongoing study on the challenges and opportunities for maple syrup and honey producers. The study, “Finding the Sweet Spot: Scales, Challenges and Opportunities for Beekeeping and Maple Syrup Production in Maine,” is a collaboration between UMaine and College of the Atlantic, and is funded by part of a three-year $1 million grant awarded to UMaine for sustainable agriculture research. UMaine members of the research team include Jessica Leahy, a professor of human dimensions of natural resources, Julia McGuire, a lecturer of biology, Melissa Ladenheim, the associate dean of the Honors College, and Sara Velardi, a post-doctoral researcher. The research team is conducting personal interviews with small- and medium-size producers of the products to gather information about their current operations, plans to expand or downsize, specific challenges to expanding and factors that could facilitate these decisions, the article states. “We are also interested in learning about their practices and how they got into [beekeeping or maple syrup production] in the first place. This is the kind of information we hope can be turned into models of mentorship or recruitment strategies to build the industries,” said Velardi. “We have these students who are working on projects that relate to sustainable foods as part of their thesis work. They are listening to the producers’ needs and working to come up with projects that will help them,” said Leahy. “We are excited about real research that benefits real people.” The team has interviewed 10 producers so far, and hopes to continue the process and wrap it up by October, according to the article. “We are really focusing on those scales of production management. We also want to talk to producers about their interest in expanding value-added production and what influences those kinds of decisions,” said Velardi. She also noted the importance of beekeepers sharing knowledge between each other, with potential for developing outreach materials that can be distributed to producers to inform management decisions. Velardi said there has been a positive response from producers and that they are excited about the research. “That should really be no surprise,” she said. “For both bees and maple syrup, it’s something that makes people really happy and that is why they get into it.” Those interested in participating in the study can contact Velardi, 583.0181 or