PLEASANT POINT — The Passamaquoddy Tribe has been awarded a federal grant that will enable it to advance its fledgling maple syrup production enterprise.
The tribe was awarded a rural business enterprise grant of $99,500, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced recently. The funds will be used to help the tribe in launching Passamaquoddy Maple Syrup Ventures.
The grant will go into a revolving loan fund, and the tribe will lend money to the venture for branding and marketing, Joseph Socobasin, governor of the tribe at Indian Township, explained earlier this week.
The grant represents one piece of the enterprise, which has been unfolding in recent years.
The tribe plans to convert a small building at the Pleasant Point reservation to be used as a bottling plant, and a portion of the grant funds will be used for building improvements.
“We’ve actually started in the past week,” Socobasin said. Tribal leaders initially considered having bottling facilities at both Princeton and Pleasant Point reservations, but realized that would be a duplication of efforts and require equipment for two sites.
The maple syrup bottling plant will provide jobs for about four or five people, Socobasin estimated.
“It’s not a big operation,” he acknowledged, but added, “Four jobs here on the reservation is pretty significant.” The positions probably would be seasonal jobs to start but may evolve into permanent, year-round employment.
The tribe has received other grant funds, $1.5 million over three years, from the Administration for Native Americans to purchase equipment to collect and process maple syrup.
The tribe began collecting maple syrup this year and had 3,000 taps in place in the spring on land it owns in the Jackman area. The raw maple syrup was processed into concentrate form and supplied to a business in the area that produces maple syrup. The tribe’s efforts yielded 8,000 gallons of concentrate.
In the coming year, the tribe plans to expand its operations and have 20,000 taps in place next spring and be ready to produce a finished product under its own brand and label. Syrup would be shipped in stainless steel barrels from Jackman to the bottling plant at Pleasant Point.
The tribe has yet to build a sap house, expected to be completed in the fall, in the Jackman region and also has ordered other processing equipment.
The tribe expects to generate about $350,000 to $400,000 in revenue for every 25,000 taps, according to Socobasin.