Sharing Food & Culture: Community Meals & Celebrations
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. These community resources are not only producers of maple syrup but also turn into bustling kitchens and community eating spaces for neighbors, families and friends to gather and share a pancake breakfast together in honor of the sugaring season! Eating a pancake breakfast at a local sugar shack is a true community experience! Since most sugar shacks are not year-round eating establishments, they convert their existing spaces into eateries with large communal tables. Even though you may have to wait a little bit to be seated, it’s such a fun way to meet new neighbors and learn about the sugaring process!
At the North Hadley Sugar Shack you can walk into the boiling room while you wait for your table to be ready and see firsthand how modern farms tap trees and what methods are used for the boiling process. Additionally, the North Hadley Sugar Shack offers demonstrations, samples and tastings for their visitors to learn about maple syrup.
There are many other sugar shacks all over Western Massachusetts in the four counties. They host pancake breakfasts and demonstrations, and provide the opportunity for folks to purchase locally produced maple syrup during sugar season. To see which sugar shack is closest to you, MassMaple.org has a comprehensive list of sugar shacks in Massachusetts. This web site is also a resource for learning more about the history of maple sugaring in New England, including a detailed timeline of sugaring in New England that also discusses the introduction of various sugaring techniques from pre-colonial times to the late 1990’s.
When visiting a sugar shack, dress warmly, arrive curious, and ask questions:
- How much sap makes a gallon of syrup?
- What are the different grades of maple syrup?
- How does the weather affect syrup production? Why?
Looking for more ways to celebrate sugaring season? How about a maple festival? The town of Chester hosts an annual Maple Fest & Craft Fair during the sugaring season with a community pancake breakfast and a craft fair full of local vendors selling crafts, maple products. and other one-of-a-kind local handmade items.
Did you know that Williams College in Williamstown produces its own maple syrup? Each year the Hopkins Memorial Forest at Williams College hosts a Maple Fest. This community festival features various hands-on activities that support an interest in historic and contemporary methods of gathering and processing maple syrup, including: a working sugar house, an old kettle boiler, tapping of maple trees, wood splitting demonstrations, syrup tasting, and a community pancake breakfast.
Check our list of Weekly Suggested Events for community events and celebrations during sugar season!
[Photo credit: (c) Sienna Wildfield]
Download our March/April edition of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts for embedded learning opportunities found in cultural resources that exist within the geography, history, and cultural traditions of Western Massachusetts.