Maple Leaves Not the Only Things Changing

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As climate change affects maple industry, Tonewood supports small-scale farming and research efforts with maple tree adoptions

"This current drought has caused the leaves to drop again prematurely, and now the trees are appearing further stressed which doesn’t bode well for the upcoming 2013 sugaring season," says David Hartshorn, Tonewood partner sugarmaker.

The continental US has just experienced the hottest 12-month period in recorded history, a period including severe droughts, wildfires, and other extreme weather events. The increase in driving and electricity consumption around the world is contributing to climate change, which is currently threatening two of Vermont’s most important industries—skiing and maple production—according to the Conservation Law Foundation.

Vermont’s Mad River Valley is nestled among the Green Mountains, just south of Lake Champlain. The region combines rich soil, southern facing slopes, and high elevation to provide ideal maple growing conditions. These superior qualities have allowed local sugarmakers to collect sap of unparalleled quality for centuries.

This tradition now faces the risk of eradication due to global climate change.

"Climate change is already changing the maple industry by shifting the timing of when maple syrup is made to earlier in the spring as well as shortening the flow season. Producers are adapting to this to some degree, but further research is needed to understand the long-term effects of climate change on maple production, and to try and devise strategies to mitigate the detrimental impacts," says Timothy Perkins, Ph.D., Research Professor and Director of the Proctor Maple Research Center.

Tonewood was founded in the spring of 2012 to support small-scale maple farming and to preserve the future of maple production in Vermont’s Mad River Valley while offering luxury maple products from Vermont to the world. Tonewood offers an array of specialty gourmet maple products, as well as a unique maple tree adoption program.

Maple tree adoptions are a collaboration between Tonewood and local, artisanal maple producers, in which each producer retains responsibility for the care and production of his product. Tonewood carefully selects partnering sugarmakers to ensure a high level of quality, and is currently collaborating with multi-generational sugarmakers—the Hartshorn and Vasseur families—located in Vermont’s Mad River Valley.

Partnering sugarmaker David Hartshorn expresses his concern for the health of maple trees claiming, “the eighty degree weather last March caused early budding, which later froze and dropped the leaflets, stressing the maples. This current drought has caused the leaves to drop again prematurely, and now the trees are appearing further stressed which doesn’t bode well for the upcoming 2013 sugaring season.”

According to a 2010 study at Cornell University, maple syrup production in the Northeast is expected to decline between now and the year 2100 with the window for tapping trees moving earlier by about a month in the same period.

In Vermont, this warming shift will move the current maple sugaring start date of March 1 ahead to February 1 with sugarmakers further south expected to fare even worse. Most maple syrup production south of Pennsylvania will likely be lost by 2100 due to lack of freezing, according to the Cornell study funded by the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“As a native Canadian who has made Vermont’s Mad River Valley my home, maple has always been prevalent in my life,” says Dori Ross, founder of Tonewood. “Losing maple production because of human-aided climate change is unacceptable in my mind, which is why I launched Tonewood and our maple tree adoption program. Our products remind people of the importance of preserving maple while we donate a percentage of sales to fund critical research to preserve this precious industry.”

Tonewood’s adoption program provides an opportunity to support small-scale maple production and sustainable farming while the adopter receives a selection of Tonewood gourmet maple products over the course of a year. A portion of each Tonewood tree adoption is donated to the Proctor Maple Research Center at the University of Vermont to fund climate change research efforts.

According to Brodie O’Brien, Director of Member Services at 1% for the Planet, “Tonewood’s partnership with the Proctor Maple Research Center is a wonderful example of 1% for the Planet businesses giving back locally; their commitment to donate 1% of sales to the Proctor Maple Research Center will ensure that Vermont remains a state with a vibrant agricultural economy and equally healthy environment for years to come.”

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Tonewood Maple is celebrating maple’s naturally sumptuous flavor and under-realized versatility by redefining a standard for elegance and quality in maple products. Through collaboration with expert sugarmakers, Tonewood produces pure maple syrups and other specialties that are single-sourced, unblended, and free of additives.

By combining a standard for excellence with sleek design and forward-thinking sustainability practices, Tonewood has created a unique tree adoption program in which adopters receive premium artisan maple products produced from the bounty of their adopted tree. Tonewood seeks to preserve maple production by funding climate change research, local farming efforts, and sustainable forest stewardship. A portion of every Tonewood sale is donated to climate change research efforts at the University of Vermont’s Proctor Maple Research Center.

For more information on Tonewood’s tree adoption program and gourmet maple products, visit

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Michael Joseph
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