The Spirit of Maple

Amy Nosal, Extension Iron County Community Development Educator

Maple is a natural resource, regional food and a source of community pride and wealth.  Its significance spans multiple cultures and points of interaction.  This webpage, The Spirit of Maple, articulates how maple engages a variety of people to share its gifts.  It is an act of reciprocity to learn how we can hold such gifts well, and the result of such interactions is sustained ecosystems, communities and economies.

Land Acknowledgement

“Being naturalized to place means to live as if this is the land that feeds you, as if these are the streams from which you drink, that build your body and fill your spirit. To become naturalized is to know that your ancestors lie in this ground. Here you will give your gifts and meet your responsibilities. To become naturalized is to live as if your children’s future matters, to take care of the land as if our lives and the lives of all our relatives depend on it. Because they do.” Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer (2013)


Maple sugaring is original to Native people of North America.

The Extension Iron County office is located on Ojibwe land.  Visit the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission website for more information about Ojibwe natural resource management within treaty-ceded territories (i.e., areas where Ojibwe tribes reserve their rights to hunt, fish and gather).

Click on the 2021 GLIFWC article below to read how Anishinaabe language articulates traditional and current understandings of community and ecology.

The Voices of Maple Nation: Indigenous Women’s Climate Summit website shares a variety of media resources articulating the ecological and cultural significance of maple and how such knowledge can support maple ecosystems threatened by climate change.



Ojibwe Lifeway: Maple Sugaring and Birch Harvesting (“Ziigwan” – Spring)  is a Gikinoo/wizhiwe Onji Waaban (“G-WOW” Guiding for Tomorrow) unit that investigates the impacts of a warming climate on sugar maple.  Resources in this service learning curriculum integrate place-based evidence of climate change with science to promote action.

Silviculture, and Why it Belongs in a Sugarbush, by Joseph Orefice, PhD, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Science, as published in the January 2020 edition of Maple Syrup Digest. “Silviculture is the art and science of controlling the establishment, growth, composition, health, and quality of forests to meet the diverse needs and values of landowners and society. Simply put, it is applied forest ecology.”

Bird Friendly Maple: A collaborative conservation project that aims to sweeten sugarbush habitat for songbirds.  “A sugarbush is a forest stand that consists of mostly sugar maple tree species, which can be used to produce maple syrup. Maple syrup can be a model for sustainably produced food that also creates habitat for birds and other wildlife.”


The Maple Syrup Digest is a great resource for the latest reports, information and ideas about the maple syrup industry.  Becoming a member to a state maple syrup producers association can provide access to this subscription and more!

The Maple News is another popular resources for learning about the latest happenings in the maple syrup industry.


How to Tap Maple Trees and Make Maple Syrup by the University of Maine includes step-by-step instructions for making maple syrup, as well as videos about the when and how of tapping, as well as testing maple syrup quality.
Maple Resources by the Ohio State University includes lists of maple producer associations, publications and research centers.

Maple Business Plan resources by the University of Vermont assist commercial producers to assess the goals, strengths and challenges of their operations.

When Tubing is Tapped Out: Recycling Maple Plastics, by Andrea Caluori, as published in the June 2020 Maple Syrup Digest. “Recycling is one way maple producers can play a role in reducing plastic pollution and participate in an ongoing conversation about conservation, maple and the environment.”


Gifts and commerce of maple products can carry immense educational, environmental and collaborative value.

Dynamite Hill Farms is returning to the production of traditional, clean, and artisan foods. We are incorporating community building, relationship building (both human and more than human), and educational components in all aspects of our operation.”

Tapped offers craft infused, barrel-aged, and pure maple syrup from sustainably managed forests in northern Wisconsin.


As explained by Gathering Waters: Wisconsin’s Alliance for Land Trusts “land trusts are nonprofit organizations that permanently protect land for all of us.”  Groups likes these can help maintain maple forests and other natural resource assets far into the future.  Barred Wood Maple in Vermont recently wrote about their experience working with a land trust in their blog post “Preserving a Special Place.”

At a community level, activities celebrating and educating about maple sugaring can strengthen a collective sense of identity to natural resources and bolster both sustainable land management and community development.

Such are the reasons Extension Iron County and partners have created the Iron Maple Festival, the most recent one held April 16-17, 2021.

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