Botanical knowledge of forests and plants has long been highly valued and as a result services and products procured from the forest have always been important to societies. This is especially true in rural areas where forest products may contribute directly to subsistence needs and/or help diversify and supplement rural incomes.
Maple syrup, for example, is one of Canada's most important and highly visible products; it is a cogent symbol of Canadian identity, both nationally and abroad as well as a harbinger of spring for many Canadians. Although its value to the Canadian economy may pale in comparison with, say, wheat or soybeans, maple syrup trumps the vast wheat fields of Manitoba and Saskatchewan when it comes to Canadian cultural identity.
Maple syrup production is economically and culturally important for Canada and some parts of the United States. Producing maple syrup is an alternative agricultural enterprise that utilizes a natural resource base (both existing and potential) and promotes rural sustainability. What distinguishes maple syrup production from other crops is the relative permanence of the trees that yield the crop. Instead of harvesting maple trees for wood products and generating an income right away, maple syrup allows income to be generated over the life of the tree.
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