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By Jeff Franklin Photography by Stephen Patton

As the first break in daytime temperatures hits Eastern Kentucky in late winter, sap rises in the area's many red and sugar maples, and maple syrup season begins in earnest. If a group of producers has their way, the Bluegrass State will be known for something other than horses, bourbon, and basketball; it will be maple syrup country, as well.

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ormed in 2017, the Kentucky Maple Syrup Association, with its roughly two dozen members, would like to add the sweet stuff to the state's identity as a niche product. Keith Moore of Savage Farms in Lawrence County, Seth Long of SouthDown Farm in Letcher County, and Woody Hartlove of Hartlove Farms in Harlan County, helped form the organization. They see unlimited potential for maple syrup in Kentucky. “We are trying to bring this maple industry to the forefront here in Kentucky,” said Moore, who says he is arguably the state's largest producer of maple syrup. His Savage Farms is located near Fallsburg in Lawrence County on the West Virginia border. “As Seth (Long) and I say, we have an untapped resource here in Kentucky, because we have a ton of maple trees, but we have not been utilizing them.” Red maples are fast growing trees, and forestry management experts often recommend removing them in favor of other hardwoods. However, those tapping the trees for the sap say not so fast. “Because so many of our woodlands have not been managed well after strip mining, what comes up are these fast growing maple trees,” Long said. “Some of my best trees are on strip-mined land.”

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The Ag Magazine, Spring 2018  
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