The Art of Maple Sugaring

Tapping into Maple Season

Red Bucket Sugar Shack in Worthington, MA

Red Bucket Sugar Shack in Worthington, MA (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

As winter slowly warms into spring, the maple trees of New England will begin their magic. Maple sugaring has been a highly respected art form for generations. The first recorded description of the sugaring process came in 1606 as part of a narrative about the Micmac people of eastern Canada. In 1663, English chemist Robert Boyle told associates in Europe, “There is in some parts of New England a kind of tree whose juice that weeps out its incision, if it is permitted slowly to exhale away the superfluous moisture, doth congeal into a sweet and saccharin substance, and the like was confirmed to me by the agent of the great and populace colony of Massachusetts.” Massachusetts is now the sixth highest state producer of maple syrup, generating about 50,000 gallons annually-worth over two million dollars!

Stoking the fire at Red Bucket Sugar Shack in Worthington, MA (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Maple syrup production is dictated almost entirely by the weather. Alternating warm days and freezing nights are ideal conditions for sugaring. This winter the ground didn’t freeze thoroughly, which means that the sugar run may be short this year. A shorter season could result in lower production-equating to higher costs for consumers-but it may still be too early to tell. “The price of maple syrup is high due to the poor season last year along with the strength of the Canadian dollar,” says Local Hero farmer Joe Raskett of Hardwick Sugar Shack. “The production of maple syrup is determined on a yearly basis, so forecasting future prices or production is often difficult and unreliable.”

As this year’s maple season kicks off, you won’t have to travel far to enjoy the delights of local sugarmakers’ labors: syrup, candy, sugar, and cream. In fact, many of those same farms offer seasonal pancake houses, the majority of which open in late February. There is no better way to warm up to the spring season than with a plate of hot cakes covered in fresh maple syrup. Or, for serious maple enthusiasts, take a tour of the sugarmaking facilities and learn how the magic happens. We strongly recommend all of the Local Hero member pancake houses, including:

Kids watch the sugaring process at Red Bucket Sugar Shack in Worthington, MA (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Gould’s Maple Farm – Shelburne

Hanging Mountain Farm- Westhampton

North Hadley Sugar Shack- Hadley

Maple Corner Farm- Granville

Williams Farm- Deerfield

For a complete listing of Local Hero maple sugarmakers and suppliers, please visit our online Farm Products Guide.

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