SANDGATE, Vt. (AP) — Maple syrup was once a side venture that helped farmers pay their taxes.
But these days, it's becoming big business in the Northeast, with corporations buying up thousands of acres of trees as they bank in part on a rise in demand for alternative natural sweeteners.
In Vermont, a state that often eschews and is fiercely protective of its image, it's perhaps surprising that smaller maple syrup operators don't seem concerned about the big newcomers. They say that's because demand continues to rise.
Crown Maple of New York state bought 4,500 acres to tap in southern Vermont in the past year and is searching for more land. An operation named Sweetree backed by a Connecticut capital management firm bought 7,000 acres and is leasing about 8,000 more.