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Maple syrup industry has more potential to tap in Wisconsin

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Wisconsin is one of the nation's leading producers of maple syrup.

While syrup season doesn't start for a few months, there's a lot of untapped potential growing in the Badger State.

Maple Hollow owner Joe Polak is the third generation to run the family business in Merrill, and he's seen a lot during his time.

"We were still tapping 6,200 buckets," Polak said of the time he joined the business. "We converted that to tubing, replaced that tubing a few times since, and have grown that part of the business dramatically."

In addition to making maple syrup, Maple Hollow also sells equipment for people looking to learn how to do it themselves. While Polak says doing it as a hobby is fairly easy, making a business out of it is a bit trickier.

"Well the first thing is to have enough maple trees to make it profitable," said Polak. "And it's not an easy step."

UW Extension Project Manager Jeremy Solin is hoping to remove some of the obstacles to getting started.

"People knowing what's available to them and what the best fit is for their operation is part of a barrier as well," he said.

With a grant of over $470,000 from the USDA, Solin and UW are hoping to connect new and existing producers with resources.

Wisconsin is currently 4th in the country in terms of maple syrup production. 300,000 gallons of maple syrup were produced last year, worth around $9 million.

Solin says there's potential to grow even more.

"The demand for maple syrup across the country and across the world continues to grow, so we really see a lot of potential for Wisconsin to increase its production and for more people to get involved," he said.

The project is in its early stages for right now, but they're looking to hear feedback from maple syrup producers on what the biggest needs are.

If you'd like to get involved, you can reach out to Jeremy Solin at jeremy.solin@wisc.edu.

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