Hilltown Families on Mass Appeal: Maple Sugar Season

Hilltown Families on Mass Appeal: February Segment
Maple Sugar Season in New England

Hilltown Families and Mass Appeal (a weekday, hour-long lifestyle program on NBC) have teamed up to offer a live monthly segment on WWLP 22News!  Each month, Hilltown Families’ Founder & Executive Director, Sienna Wildfield,  joins Mass Appeal hosts, Ashley Kohl and Seth Stutman, to talk about ways to engage in your community while supporting the interests and education of your children (and yourselves!).

This monthly segment continued on Thursday, February 26, 2015, highlighting community-based resources and events that use the Maple sugar season as a catalyst for learning, celebrating local culture and building community. Sienna shares three community-based resources and two community events, highlighting two types of events:

3 Types of Community-Based Resources

Living History Museums

Families can experience what maple sugaring was like in the days of old New England at living history events where museum interpreters dressed in period clothing demonstrate life and skills from Colonial New England, including: tree tapping, sumac spile making, sap boiling over a fire, open hearth cooking, and other early American skills. At living history museums, history comes alive and are wonderful community-based resources for curious minds wanting to learn about New England history and lore of maple syrup. In March, two living history museums in our region will be hosting Maple themed events:

  1. Old Sturbridge Village (Sturbridge, MA). Maple Days every weekend in March ($)
  2. Storrowtown Village Museum (West Springfield, MA). Maple Harvest Day on Sunday, March 15 (Free)

Educational Farms

We have a number of farms in our region that are also education centers, including Bug Hill Farm (Ashfield),  Just Roots (Greenfield), Holiday Brook Farm (Dalton) and Winterberry Farm (Leverett). Families can call ahead and see if they are offering farm-based educational events and opportunities during maple syrup season or other times of the year.

During maple syrup season, Red Gate Farm (Buckland) invites visitors to stop by at any time and to join them in activities they might be engaged in, including tree identification, taping, gathering & boiling sap, and even traditional sheep shearing.  Participating in these farm-based activities allows for integrated learning in subjects like plant studies, farming, math & chemistry, and animal husbandry.

Sugar Shacks

Sugar shacks are small cabins where maple sap is gathered and boiled down to syrup. Tours of sugar shacks are primary-source opportunities to learn about local history, New England culture, local economy and technology.

MassMaple.org has a comprehensive list of sugar shacks in Massachusetts, including South Face Farm (Ashfield). South Face Farm is open daily, offering tours of their facility including displays of educational and antique maple equipment. Dress warm, arrive curious & ask questions:

  • What has changed over the years? What is the same?
  • How much sap makes a gallon of syrup?
  • What are the different grades of maple syrup?
  • How does the weather affect syrup production? Why?

2 Types of Community Events

Community Celebrations

In addition to living history museums, educational farms and sugar house visits, families can further engage with their community by attending a community celebration to celebrate sugar season and the coming of spring. Participating in a community celebration helps children discover their own local culture and the cycles of the seasons marked by annual celebrations.

One such event is Maple Fest in the town of Chester. Chester’s 30th annual Maple Fest on Saturday, March 21 from 9am-3pm, celebrates the role that the tradition has had throughout the town’s history. Families can enjoy all sorts of maple treats produced by local farmers, learn about local syrup production, and perhaps learn some of the skills that they’ll need to try out sugaring for themselves!

Community Meals

Community meals are the perfect intergenerational opportunity to sit down with neighbors of all ages, making connections and nurturing relationships across the generations. During sugar season, look for pancake breakfasts in your community, arrive hungry and ready to meet and greet your neighbors.

Enjoying a meal with local maple syrup during a community pancake breakfast does more than fill your belly… it strengthens the social fabric of community by nurturing a sense of place in our children, and often times, raising money for our school and community organizations! A small sample of upcoming community pancake breakfasts include:


Mass Appeal is a live weekday program that airs at 11am on 22News (Springfield, MA).  Our next visit to the Mass Appeal studios will be Thursday, March 26!

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