Literature in Context: A Literary Guide for Maple Syrup Season

In late winter when the days are warm but the nights are still cold, the sap starts to run in sugar maples. Throughout New England, buckets and tubing begin to adorn trees, and the steady plinking of sap dripping into buckets can be heard throughout the sugarbush. This month’s literature guide spotlights titles that can be used to learn about sugaring – both the science behind it and the role that it plays in rural New England culture.



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Nature Table for March: Maple Buds and Bark

Nature Table for March

Every month, Hilltown Families features a new nature table whose contents inspire learning along with a common theme easily spotted in our surroundings that month. A tradition carried out by teachers, environmental educators, and nature-curious families, nature tables bring a little bit of the outdoors inside for inspection, dissection, identification, creative play, art projects, and lots of other educational activities. The idea behind a nature table is to help open up children’s eyes to the unique attributes of each season and to help them learn how to see these things in nature for themselves. A nature table can include a variety of items and is often accompanied by a set of books and/or field guides so that children can take part in further learning at their own will.

The surest sign of spring in western Massachusetts is the appearance of buckets and tubes on trees lining our winding rural roads. Sugar season marks the end of winter’s harshest weather, as the sap begins to flow only when daytime temperatures are above freezing. From living history to delicious meals, there is a multitude of community-based ways to engage with this sweet element of our natural and cultural history, but the naturalist’s way of learning about sugar season is not to simply observe it, but to learn to become a part of it!

The specifics of sugaring are basic enough, so long as you have sufficient trees to make the time spent worthwhile – which is where the first challenge of sugaring lies! There are thousands of species of maple trees in the world, and at least 13 of these are native to the United States. Of these native to our country, at least 7 different native maple species can be found here in western MA. When leaves are in season, it’s easy enough to distinguish sugar maples from non-sugar maples. In the absence of leaves, however, sugar maples are much more difficult to spot!  Read the rest of this entry »

Learning Ahead: Early Spring is Sugar Season

March is Sugar Season

It’s March. The light is changing, the days are getting longer, and the ground slowly begins to thaw. As spring rounds the corner, March becomes the month of gathering and beginning, of re-emergence and sharing. Early in the month it might feel like winter outside, but rest assured that spring is stirring underneath blankets of snow. March is sugaring season.

While April and May showcase new life in full force, March is a transitional time of year when we are reminded strongly of New England’s cycles. As the temperatures rise during the day and cool down to freezing at night, sap begins to flow through the sapwood of the sugar maples. These native trees are tapped during this time of temperature fluctuation to capture their sap that will eventually be boiled down into delicious sweet maple syrup – ah yes, liquid gold!
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Maple Syrup: Native American Traditions & New England History

New England Traditions: Maple Sugaring & Local History

Before the arrival of European settlers, Native Americans were already tapping sugar maples and processing maple sugar in the early 1600’s. Early Native Americans would move their whole families to a location in the woods where there were plenty of sugar maples to tap. They would set up a sugar camp and create V-shaped slashes in the tree as a method to collect the sap. Since they did not yet have metal pots for boiling, the collected sap was placed in a wooden vessel and hot rocks were added to help boil away the water to create a syrupy consistency.

The Native Americans in New England used maple syrup to make grain sugar, cake sugar, and wax sugar. Grain sugar is similar to what we now refer to as brown sugar. Cake sugar was in block form, shaped by pouring the syrup into molds and allowing it to harden. This made it easier to store. Finally, wax sugar is what we know as sugar on snow. It’s the pouring of maple syrup heated to high temperatures on the snow to create a taffy-like consistency to enjoy.  Read the rest of this entry »

Living History Museums During Sugar Season

Living History Museums During Sugar Season

In Western Massachusetts, living history museums celebrate local history and early American living through maple sugaring demonstrations that recall the techniques, foods, and traditions connected to the sugaring season. 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.  Read the rest of this entry »

Sugar Shacks & Shared Meals Support Connections & Culture

Sharing Food & Culture: Community Meals & Celebrations

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. 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!  Read the rest of this entry »

Art & Literature of Seasonal Living: The Maple Tree

The Inspiring Maple Tree:
The Art & Literature of Seasonal Living

Robert Strong Woodward

Western Massachusetts landscape painter, Robert Strong Woodward (1885-1957) was born in Northampton, MA and settled in Buckland where he painted along with a studio in Heath where he produced many works. Woodward was a landscape painter mostly depicting the rural countryside and living that surrounded him. One of the themes he explored is the sugaring season.

You can view Woodward’s works at the website run by the nonprofit Friends of Woodward.

One painting in particular, Late Sugaring, shows maple trees with red tapping buckets along Route 112 in Buckland. Painted in 1934, this image is a typical New England scene that one can still witness driving along the same road in the Hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. This beautiful region, largely unchanged throughout the decades, still offers that majestic New England experience that Woodward captures in this painting. An online gallery of Woodward’s sugaring paintings is also found at Friends of Woodward’s web site. Peruse the gallery before heading over to a local sugar shack this season for breakfast and arrive curious. What has changed over the years? What is the same?  Read the rest of this entry »

Early Spring Food Tradition: Pancakes & Maple Syrup

Living Seasonally & Cooking Seasonally:
Pancakes & Maple Syrup

Did you know that pancakes are over 6,000 years old? Although not in the present form we know today, the predecessors to the modern pancake consisted of ground wheat cooked in a form of a pancake. Even the ancient Greeks and Romans ate a form of pancake sweetened with honey! Later in history, American colonists ate pancakes also known as Johnny Cakes.

Modern day technology and contemporary recipes have added to our cultural repertoire of recipes. Take for instance this demonstration on how to make maple cream:

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Maple Sugar Season: A Sweet Point of Entry to Community Engagement… and Learning!

2016 Maple Sugar Season

How sweet the end of winter is here in western Massachusetts – and not just because the snow is beginning to melt! Warmer temperatures signal the start of sap flow in sugar maples, whose frozen and sleepy roots and limbs come alive when the landscape begins to thaw. Maple sugaring is a centuries-old tradition in New England, and the seasonal industry remains an important part of the foundation upon which local agricultural is built. Additionally, maple sugaring brings opportunities for families to engage in intergenerational community-based learning through visits to farms, community meals, living history, and experiential hands-on activities.  Read the rest of this entry »

Hopkins Memorial Forest’s annual Maplefest in the Berkshires

Hopkins Forest to Host Annual Maplefest

Traditionally, March is the busiest time for syrup producers in New England. As the days begin to warm, sugar-rich sap starts to flow upward from its winter storage in the trees’ roots to the twigs and buds; it is this sap that has been harvested for generations to produce maple products throughout the region. Sugaring has been going on in Hopkins Forest since the mid-80s when Williams College students constructed a sugar house in an existing maple grove.

With the moderating weather, maple sugaring season has arrived just in time for Hopkins Memorial Forest’s annual Maplefest celebration on Saturday, March 14, from 11am-2pm. This annual event, which exalts the time-honored Yankee tradition of producing home grown sweeteners from local maple trees, will enable people to observe and take part in the process of producing maple syrup, from the tree to the bottle.

Participants will be able to visit a working sugar house; to observe the finishing and bottling of the final product; to try their hands at tapping a tree and gathering sap; and to taste homemade syrup on pancakes and “sugar on snow.” In addition, there will be demonstrations of old-time evaporating methods—going back to the pre-colonial era—children’s activities, videos and more.  Read the rest of this entry »

Maple Harvest Day in the Pioneer Valley

The Sweet Taste of Spring Will Bring Communities Out & Together

Celebrate this year’s maple season at Storrowton Village’s annual Maple Harvest Day! Families can learn about maple harvests of the past in the historic village, and celebrate the coming of spring as well!

Today, the beginning of maple sugaring season involves lots of tubing, tanks, and trucks for transport, as well as efficient and well-engineered industrial size evaporators. Despite the modernity of most large-scale syrup-producing operations, some of the vestiges of old time New England sugaring still remain. While it’s rare these days to find a maple harvest being boiled down in a kettle over a camp fire, many small-scale producers still tap trees with individual buckets and collect the sap by hand on a regular basis – just as western Massachusetts’ residents did centuries ago, forming the foundation upon which the industry was built.

Celebrate this year’s maple harvest at Storrowton Village’s annual Maple Harvest Day! The annual celebration of the local maple tradition will be held on Sunday, March 15th from 11am-3pm in the Big E’s historic New England village. Families can explore the village and step back in time to the days when sugaring season was entirely tube-free, and can learn about the early technologies that allowed industrious New Englanders to have a successful harvest year after year. Read the rest of this entry »

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:

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HFVS Sheep Shearing & Maple Syrup Episode (Podcast/Radio Show)

Hilltown Family Variety Show

Listen to Podcast:

Sheep Shearing & Maple Syrup Episode

Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am
February 28th & March 1st, 2015
(Original broadcast: Feb 28, 2009)
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA

Sheep Shearing

Shearing the sheep and skirting the fleece at Red Gate Farm in Buckland, MA. Click on photo to see more images. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfied

 Archived Podcasts Radio  Facebook Twitter

  • Lunch Money – “Wake Up, World” – Dizzy 
  • Pete Seeger – “Maple Syrup Time” – Seeds: The Songs of Pete Seeger
  • Kitty Donohoe  – “Maple Syrup” – Bunyan and Banjoes
  • Phil Rosenthal – “Buffalo Gals” – This Land is Your Land
  • Nashville Bluegrass Band & Kid Pan Alley – “Extra Hand” – Kid Pan Alley
  • Station Id: The Harmonica Pocket []
  • Carla Sciaky – “Sheep Shearing” – Spin the Weaver’s Song
  • Justin Roberts – “Field Trip” – Pop Fly
  • The Hipwaders – “Field Trip” – Goodie Bag 
  • Station Id: Steve Weeks []
  • L. Frank Baum – The Story of Baa-Baa Black Sheep
  • Teresa Doyle – “The Shearing” – If Fish Could Sing … and Sheep Could Dance
  • Matt Nathanson – “Starfish and Coffee” – For the Kids Too
  • Moxy Fruvous – “Maple Syrup Time” – If I Had a Song: Songs of Pete Seeger Vol. 2
  • The Hipwaders – “Things You Want” – Goodie Bag

Maple Days in Western MA

Learning through the Lens of Maple Sugar Season

How sweet the end of winter is here in western Massachusetts – and not just because the snow is beginning to melt! Warmer temperatures signal the start of sap flow in sugar maples, whose frozen and sleepy roots and limbs come alive when the landscape begins to thaw. Maple sugaring is a centuries-old tradition in New England, and the seasonal industry remains an important part of the foundation upon which local agricultural is built. Additionally, maple sugaring brings opportunities for families to engage in intergenerational community-based learning through visits to farms, community meals, living history, and experiential hands-on activities.  Read the rest of this entry »

Sugar Season in Western MA

Sugar Season in Western MA

If sugaring is something that your family is particularly interested in trying and you’ve got a yard full of maples, try it out for yourself at home! With the right supplies, sugaring can be a fun and fairly easy family activity. Kids will get to practice math and science skills while selecting trees to tap – first, they’ll need to identify the proper species, and then they’ll need to determine the diameter of the tree at a specific height. Lots of careful observation, use of tools, and recording of data will need to be done! Then, while you wait for the sap to collect, kids can track the amount that fills the bucket each day. Older students might even be able to figure out the percentage by which the volume of the sap decreases after it has been boiled down into syrup!

As the winter days become warmer, plants and animals begin to prepare for springtime to come. And what’s one of the first (and possibly the most delicious) signs of spring here in western Massachusetts? Maple sugaring season, of course!

Sugaring season has been a New England tradition since practically forever. It was written about by English settlers as early as the mid-1600’s, and was a Native American harvest long before any Europeans set foot in North America. The history of this annual sap-harvesting tradition can’t really be boiled down to any specific time period or group of people, but it has nevertheless been done year after year for countless generations.

Today, a popular sugar season tradition for families in western Massachusetts is visiting a nearby sugar shack. There are sugar shacks to visit all over the region , and a great many of these can pair the experience of watching fresh maple sap be boiled down into a thick syrup with a homemade stack of maple syrup-covered pancakes. Many sugarhouses offer informative tours of their facilities, demonstrating their process of tapping, collecting, boiling, and bottling their syrup. In addition to learning about the sugaring process, a visit to a sugar shack can also be a lesson in local history and community resilience – many local sugar houses have been owned and operated by the same families for a few generations, making sugaring an important part of the local economy as well as a strong link between local families and their physical surroundings…

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Maple Syrup Time: Eight Featured Sugar Shacks in Western MA

Maple Syrup Season

The moment that we have been waiting for all winter is here: Maple Syrup Time!  The ground is thawing, and the sap is running… maple sugaring is everywhere, giving great reason to get out with your family to learn about the maple sugaring process while enjoying the first harvest of the year!

Below, I have listed several sugar shacks where there is a restaurant, and the sap run is a sweet and joyful event.  However, do not disregard the people around the corner or the trees in your own back yard! A directory of sugar shacks in Massachusetts is available at Check to see if there is someone making syrup in your neighborhood that you do not know.  Call ahead to see if they are boiling and if you bring your kids to come to watch the process.

Sugar Shacks with Breakfast

If you want a list with highlights, this is the list for you:

  1. Williams Farm Sugarhouse in Deerfield
  2. North Hadley Sugar Shack
  3. High Hopes Farm Sugar House in Worthington
  4. Red Bucket Sugar Shack in Worthington
  5. Gould’s Maple Sugarhouse in Shelburne
  6. Hanging Mountain Farms & The Strawbale Cafe in Westhampton
  7. Davenport Maple Farm Restaurant in Shelburne
  8. Steve’s Sugar Shack in Westhampton

For a quick, complete, and unannotated list, with hours, dates and directions, check out the Mass Maple Sugar House with Restaurant directory.  And while there is a definite joy in celebrating the harvest with comrades and pancakes, have you considered tapping a tree or two yourself?  Here is a quick guide from the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association to get you started: Make Your Own Maple Syrup.

[Updated: 03/17/19]

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28th Annual Maple Fest on Chester Hill

28th Annual Maple Fest on Chester Hill

Chester is celebrating the beginning of spring with their annual Maple Festival. On Saturday, March 16th from 9am-3pm, families are invited to visit Chester Center to experience old time sugaring first hand and relive simpler times. Families can begin their day with a traditional Country Breakfast, served continuously from 9am ‘til noon at the First Congregational Church (>$).  After breakfast, visit local artisans and craftspeople, at the old schoolhouse across the road. Begin the afternoon listening to the sound of the Pioneer Valley Fiddlers, scheduled to play at the church at 12noon. All day long, wagons pulled by tractors or a team of draft horses will carry guests back and forth to High Meadows Sugarhouse to watch the production of maple syrup.

HFVS Sheep Shearing & Maple Syrup Episode (Radio Show/Podcast)

Listen to Podcast:


Sheep Shearing

Shearing the sheep and skirting the fleece at Red Gate Farm in Buckland, MA. Click on photo to see more images. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfie

Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am
March 9th & 10th, 2013
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA

 Archived Podcasts Radio  Facebook Twitter

  • Lunch Money – “Wake Up, World” – Dizzy 
  • Pete Seeger – “Maple Syrup Time” – Seeds: The Songs of Pete Seeger
  • Kitty Donohoe  – “Maple Syrup” – Bunyan and Banjoes
  • Phil Rosenthal – “Buffalo Gals” – This Land is Your Land
  • Nashville Bluegrass Band & Kid Pan Alley – “Extra Hand” – Kid Pan Alley
  • Station Id: The Harmonica Pocket []
  • Carla Sciaky – “Sheep Shearing” – Spin the Weaver’s Song
  • Justin Roberts – “Field Trip” – Pop Fly
  • The Hipwaders – “Field Trip” – Goodie Bag 
  • Station Id: Steve Weeks []
  • L. Frank Baum – The Story of Baa-Baa Black Sheep
  • Teresa Doyle – “The Shearing” – If Fish Could Sing … and Sheep Could Dance
  • Matt Nathanson – “Starfish and Coffee” – For the Kids Too
  • Moxy Fruvous – “Maple Syrup Time” – If I Had a Song: Songs of Pete Seeger Vol. 2
  • The Hipwaders – “Things You Want” – Goodie Bag 

Celebrate the State’s Sweetest Season this Weekend 2013

Celebrate MapleFest to Maple Harvest Day, from the Berkshires to the Pioneer Valley

Dennis Picard, Storrowton Village Museum director, demonstrates the art of open kettle evaporation to boil sap from a nearby maple tree into sugar during last year’s Maple Harvest Day.

It’s maple season in Western MA for certain!  Taps, buckets, and sap-carrying tubes have been put up in the woods all over the area, the weather is just right, and sap is running.  This weekend, celebrate the return of the state’s sweetest season at MapleFest, Hopkins State Forest’s annual celebration of the tradition of maple sugaring in Williamstown.  Taking place on Saturday, March 9th from 11am-2pm, the event offers families a chance to learn about the modern processes used to produce syrup, as well as a delicious opportunity to sample local syrup atop pancakes or poured over snow.

The forest is home to a working sugar shack, where families can duck into the small, steamy building to see the heated vat evaporating water out of the freshly collected sap.  Once you’ve learned conventional ways maple syrup is made, watch a demonstration of the syrup-making techniques of yesterday!  Families can learn about methods that date as far back as pre-Colonial times.  And, for those interested in lending a hand, helping out with the harvest is always welcome!  Haul a bucket or two, or schlep a crate of freshly sealed jugs – being part of the process is the best way to learn!

For a maple-related adventure down in the Pioneer Valley, look no further than West Springfield’s Storrowton Village!  The historic village, filled with buildings from all over New England, will host Maple Harvest Day on Sunday, March 10th from 11am-3pm.

Families visiting Storrowton will learn about maple sugaring in early New England, and can see museum workers in period costume participate in the 19th-century version of the tasks necessary to make maple syrup.

Inside the homes in the village there will be demonstrations of basic homesteading skills such as open hearth cooking, spinning and weaving, and more.  Enjoy a day in old New England, and learn about rural culture throughout American history!

Both events are free!  Hopkins State Forest is located at the corner of Blakely Street and Northwest Hill Road in Williamstown.  Storrowton Village is located at 1305 Memorial Drive in West Springfield, and can be reached at 413-205-5051.  Enjoy!

Maple Dessert to Follow a Spring Dinner

Maple Flan

We were given some fresh eggs by a friend with chickens. The variety of colors, shapes, and sizes invite inspiration. Hmm … we have some Taproot Commons Farm raw milk to use up. Amy’s going to be happy tonight! Whatever we have for dinner, we are going to end our meal with creamy, delicious Maple Flan. Everything is local except for the vanilla and the sugar for melting into caramel. I love maple syrup in custard instead of white sugar. Besides being local, it offers a rich flavor and creamy texture. The custard is slightly softer, but we prefer it that way. Give it a try and let me know what you think. Now, it’s out to the garden! We’ll be sowing tomato, basil, broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and kale seeds indoors after dark tonight, but now it’s time to soak up the glorious sun and warmth. Climate change is bringing us plenty of odd and disturbing weather, but the sun sure feels good. Enjoy!

♦  Print Recipe: Maple Flan [V/NF/GF/WF] 

Vegetarian (V) | Vegan (Vg) | Nut-Free (NF) | Gluten-Free (GF) | Wheat-Free (WF)


Alice Cozzolino

Alice has been co-owner of The Old Creamery since 2000.  She and her partner and spouse, Amy, have lived in Cummington since they built their home in 1986.  Alice and Amy are very deeply connected to their land; they grow a lot of their own food, eat well (especially during the growing season), feed many friends and loved ones and preserve as much food as possible.  Rarely a day goes by that they don’t say “Aren’t we blessed to live here?” Feeding people feels like a calling to Alice.  She was brought up with her Italian Gram and her Dad putting something wonderful to eat in her mouth and saying “Here, eat this.”  Nothing brings her greater joy than feeding people that she cares about or people that are in need of kindness and nurturing.

[Photo credit: (ccl) matuko amini]

Maple Harvest Day 2012 in Hampden County

Maple Harvest Day at Storrowton Village
Sunday, March 11th, 2012

Maple Events in estern MA

Click on the banner to find out about maple events happening throughout Western MA.

Springtime in New England means maple syrup season!  As the days get longer and warmer, the sap starts flowing by the bucket.  Maple syrup and maple sugar production has been important within New England culture ever since the earliest days of the region, and Storrowton Village in West Springfield is offering families a chance to learn about the history of the practice!

On Sunday, March 11th from 11am-3pm, the village will be open for Maple Harvest Day, a time when visitors can learn about maple sugaring.  There will be demonstrations of every step of the process, including sap gathering, tree tapping, boiling sap into syrup- all in the style of 19th century New Englanders!

Breakfast in Western MA

Find out how you can enter to win an opportunity to take your family out for breakfast at a traditional sugar shack in Western MA, while enjoying locally produce coffee & tea!

Along with maple sugaring will be demonstrations of open hearth cooking, quilting, and wool spinning inside the village’s buildings.  There will be a pancake breakfast and maple-themed lunch that visitors can take part in for a fee- proceeds from both events benefit Storrowton’s educational programming.

Visiting the village for Maple Harvest Day guarantees a valuable learning experience.  Not only will kids be able to learn about where their delicious syrup, sugar, and candy comes from, but they’ll learn about the lives lead by and practices of the people who lived in the area before them.  For more information, visit

Breakfast Giveaway: Pancakes, Coffee & Tea in Western MA

Breakfast Giveaway in Western MA:
Sugar Shack Breakfast for Your Family Plus
Locally Produced Coffee & Tea Gift Boxes

Our region is rich in locally grown, produced and served food.  Enter to win a breakfast out for a family of four at South Face Farm Sugarhouse (Ashfield), along with locally produced coffee from Gay Coffee (Williamsburg) and tea from Tea Guys (Hatfield). Deadline to enter to win: March 19th by 7pm (EST).

Maple Sugar Season is upon us and many families make it an annual tradition to enjoy breakfast together at one of the rustic sugar shacks in the region.  It’s a great way to spend a morning together with the kids while enjoying the first harvest of the year and watching the sugaring process.  We asked our readers to share their favorite sugar shack in Western MA and recommendations ranged from Gould’s in Shelburne, Red Bucket in Worthington, Steve’s Sugar Shack in Westhampton, to South Face Farm in Ashfield… but one thing was quiet clear… families LOVE their local sugar shacks!

To celebrate this short and sweet breakfast tradition of coming together with your community to dine at these seasonal houses of sweetness, Hilltown Families has partnered with three local businesses to offer one lucky family the chance to win a breakfast for four at South Face Farm Sugarhouse in Ashfield, plus a coffee gift box from Gay Coffee in Williamsburg, and a tea gift box from Tea Guys in Hatfield (all three!).

According to the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association, “Sugaring is one of the few tourist destination events to occur during mud season in March and April. 60,000 visitors spend in excess of one million dollars during sugaring season. Farms, restaurants, Bed and Breakfasts, country inns, and other tourist businesses share this income, which flows mostly into small towns and farm communities.”

To enter to win our Breakfast Giveaway, we’re looking for community feedback on how the harvest of maple syrup gets your family outdoors, participating in the harvest with your community to share in a collection stories and recipes we are putting together for a new project we’re working on called Seasons at Our Table.  In addition to dining out at a sugar shack, maybe your family gathers maple sap and boils it down, or you like to attend the maple festivals and educational opportunities in the area… Or maybe you have a new tradition you’re looking forward to participating in with your family and/or community.  Details on how to enter to win are below, and deadline to enter is Monday, March 19th by 7pm (EST).

Here’s what you can enter to win:

South Face Farm Sugarhouse (Ashfield, MA)

South Face Farm Sugarhouse is located in Ashfield, MA, a small rural and farming community in the Berkshire foothills.  Their traditional old New England sugarhouse and restaurant is open this year on Saturdays and Sundays from March 3rd to April 7th, and closed Easter Sunday.  Families can watch pure maple syrup being made and then just a few steps away, taste the results on a plate of steaming hot blueberry pancakes. They offer a varied menu of traditional New England sugarhouse food, using the best ingredients from local farms and sources. Their French toast is made from locally baked real French bread, or cinnamon bread. All batters are made from scratch each day using the finest ingredients. To see the sugarhouse menu click here to view or print. Seasonal updates are posted on the South Face Farm Facebook page and more info can be found at

GIVEAWAY: South Face Farm is offering Hilltown Families readers a chance to win breakfast for a family of four at their restaurant and sugarhouse for this season.  Don’t miss the chance to experience a taste of the maple sugaring season while dinning with your family in a quintessential New England tradition. (Value: Whatever your family orders, they’ve got you covered!)

Gay Coffee (Williamsburg, MA)

Gay Coffee is based in Williamsburg, MA.   Each batch of hand roasted coffee is fairly traded and organically sourced, respecting their coffee growing partners, and the planet’s health.   At the intersection of a historic moment in gay civil rights, and over the morning ritual of sharing a cup of exquisite coffee, Gay Coffee was conceived as the perfect integration of these two powerful themes with 1% of all profits donated to the National Gay Lesbian Task Force.  Find out more about Gay Coffee at

GIVEAWAY: Gay Coffee gift box includes a 10 oz gift tin of Second Date, a deep and very full bodied brew that combines African and Central American beans;  A 10 oz bag of Stone Butch Breakfast Blend: A classic blend of medium roasted beans from the highlands of Guatemala; and a set of “Wake Up and Taste the Gay!” mugs. (Value: $56)

Tea Guys (Hatfield, MA)

Tea Guys in Hatfield, MA is a local family-owned business specializing in artisan whole leaf loose tea blends. Their culinary-inspired tea creations are blended in small batches daily and made with the finest loose tea from around the world, freshly hand-milled spices, vanilla bean, dried fruits, nuts and artisan ingredients to create unique and colorful blends that stimulate the eyes, nose, and palate – and truly taste like no other tea.

GIVEAWAY: This Tea Guys gift box includes a selection of three tins of our unique blends: Tropical Green tea, Strawberry Kiwi fruit tisane, and Coconut Truffle black tea, along with a brewing basket for brewing the perfect cup of tea. (Value: $35)


Your chance to win a family breakfast for four at South Face Farm Sugarhouse in Ashfield this season, plus a gift box of coffee from Gay Coffee in Williamsburg, and a gift box of tea from Tea Guys in Hatfield is as easy as 1-2-3 (4)!  To win simply:

  • CONSIDER SHARING THIS POST ON FACEBOOK by selecting the Facebook icon below,
  • FULL NAME (first/last) and where you
  • LIVE (TOWN/STATE) must include your town to be eligible.
  • ACCURATE EMAIL (we never share your email address).
  • From our favorite entries (so make them good!) we’ll randomly draw a winner and will share the results below.

IT’S THAT SIMPLE! — Deadline is Monday, March 19th by 7pm (EST).

Maple Sugar Season Events for 2012

Q&A: Where’s Your Favorite Sugar Shack in Western MA?

Question and Answer

Collecting sap in Cummington, MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Sugar season is fast approaching! Where’s your favorite sugar bush or sugar shack to take the family during Maple sugar season?

  • Anita Morehouse recommends: “Growing up we always went to Gould’s in Shelburne… or was it Charlemont?”
  • Jenny Giering recommends: High Hopes Farm in South Worthington on Rt. 112! Open every Saturday & Sunday from 2/26 to Easter 7 AM – 2 PM. Awesome breakfast & great syrup!”
  • Maryellen Smith Rousseau recommends: “Love both South Face Farm in Ashfield and Steve’s Sugar Shack in Westhampton.”
  • Tish Serrani recommends: “Straw Bale Cafe at Hanging Mountain Farm in Westhampton. Try the eggbake, it’s yummy.”
  • Jill Robinson recommends: “On opening day, this Saturday Feb. 26, Steve’s Sugar Shack (Westhampton) will be donating a portion of that day’s profits to Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity. Check it out! You can find out more on Habitat’s Facebook page.”
  • Leslie A. Keller recommends: “So far…. Red Bucket… they have the best carrot-cake pancakes ever!!”
  • Karen Lucas recommends: “Love the Red Bucket! Can’t wait til this weekend when they are open!!!”
  • Sienna Wildfield recommends: “We too love going to Red Bucket Sugar Shack in Worthington.  They serve a nice breakfast and it’s so much fun to watch them boil down the sap while waiting for a table!”
  • Patty Pike Greene recommends: “I very much miss Gray’s Sugarhouse in Ashfield… but close second is Southface Sugarhouse in Ashfield!!! Can’t wait!”
  • Shoshona King recommends: “I love the North Hadley Sugar Shack. Maple milk shakes in the summer, harvest veggies in the fall, Christmas trees & onions in the winter, and of course maple sugar as a 1st sign that spring is coming.”
  • Stephanie Gale recommends: “I like Davenport in Shelburne! But now that we moved to Easthampton, we found that we love North Hadley Sugar Shack.”
  • Shannon Soones Golden recommends: “North Hadley!”
  • Patricia Loomis recommends: “Red Bucket!”
  • Amy Meehan Higgins recommends: “I love all of them…but have a weakness for corn fritters and a beautiful drive…so South Face it is!”
  • Rebecca Dejnak recommends: “Williams Farm in Deerfield.”
  • See more recommendations.
  • Post a recommendation.


Massachsetts map of sugarhouse distribution

There are many area sugar shacks to bring your family to during sugar season that serve breakfast with the fresh maple syrup. Be sure to call ahead for schedules.

It’s Maple Syrup Time!

March is Maple Syrup Time in Western MA

Sugaring at South Face Farm in Ashfield, MA.

Massachusetts’s maple forests have endured the winter months and are ready to produce sweet and flavorful maple syrup.  Maple events, sugarhouse visits and farm fresh maple delights from restaurants, markets, bed and breakfasts and local farms, offer great seasonal outings for families all over Western Mass.“Sugarmakers around Massachusetts are looking forward to the season. We’re all proud to be continuing a craft that has been part of Massachusetts for hundreds of years. We encourage people to visit their local sugarhouses to see how it’s done and taste the best maple syrup made,” said hilltown resident Winton Pitcoff, Coordinator at the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association.

Maple syrup lovers should visit and for a sugarhouse directory, map of sugarhouse locations, recipes, nutrition information and much more to plan and explore your culinary maple syrup experience.



Sugar Shacks in Western MA:

Gould’s Maple Sugarhouse (Shelburne, MA)
Six generations of producing pure maple syrup.  Opens for breakfast on March 1st. (413) 625-6170

High Hopes Farm Sugar House (South Worthington, MA)
High Hopes Farm taps as many as 4,000 trees with more than 20 miles of sap lines strung from tree to tree, bringing the sweet sap by gravity to the sugar house. Purchase maple products and dine in the maple inspired restaurant. Rustic dining Sugar House Buffet offered February thru mid April from 7am-2pm.  (413) 238-5919

Hanging Mountain Farms (Westhampton, MA)
You will find us making our pure maple syrup, in one of the oldest sugar houses in the Pioneer Valley. You will be able to enjoy a tour and see how this sweet product is made. During the month of March, which is our busiest sugaring season, our cafe transforms itself into your neighborhood sugarhouse restaurant. (413) 527-3210

North Hadley Sugar Shack at Boisvert Farm (Hadley, MA)
Located in Massachusetts’ scenic, historic Pioneer Valley, the North Hadley Sugar Shack allows visitors to purchase maple sugar products, dine at it’s famous pancake breakfast and participate in sugaring tours. Open February 17th thru April 18th,  Wed-Sun from 7am-3pm. (413)

Pomeroy Sugar House (Westfield, MA)
Guests can enjoy breakfast, smell the sweet aroma of maple, have an opportunity to speak with the proprietor about the syrup making process, and see the cows and calves of the working dairy farm. With the recent addition of the Pomeroy Bed and Breakfast, visitors can stay at the Inn, tour the dairy farm, and enjoy a delicious breakfast while learning the process for making Maple Syrup.  Open for breakfast on Fri-Sun, 7:30am-1pm from February 12th thru April 11th.  (413) 568-3484

South Face Farm (Ashfield, MA)
This farmland has been producing maple syrup for over 150 years. The present sugarhouse, built in 1952, and offers visitors to dine at the sugarhouse restaurant serving homemade pancakes, waffles, corn fritters and many other special maple goodies. Try a stack of French Toast made with fresh homemade bread, topped with just-made maple syrup. (413) 628-3268

Ioka Valley Farm Sugar House (Hancock, MA)
Watch the fascinating process of turning Fresh Maple Sap into Pure Maple Syrup! Come, talk to a real sugar maker. Ask your maple questions during the maple sugaring season. Ioka Valley Farm has more than 4000 taps and two modern boilers housed in the sugar house, built especially for production of the sweet treat.  Sugar House Breakfast served mid-Feb thru early April with sugar house tours on the weekends. (413) 738-5915

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Maple Syrup: Lessons in Math, Biology & History

Ratios as a Sweet Treat!

Maple syrup sign in Worthington, MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

As one of his first orders of business, CISA’s new Executive Director, Phil Korman, has offered to share a maple syrup-based math lesson that he developed for use in his son’s 4th grade classroom. He’s been doing a variation on this lesson with his son’s class for several years, so it can be adjusted to fit most young age groups.

First he introduces the students to the lesson by talking a little bit about the history of maple syrup and how sap is harvested and turned into syrup. This is a great opportunity to teach your students about early American history, and also to explore the biology of maple trees. Visit the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association website for exhaustive resources on all things maple. Once the students are introduced to the wide world of maple trees, sap, and syrup, Phil leads them through the following math lesson, which includes a syrup tasting as a special treat.

Phil’s lesson on Maple Syrup Math and the ratio of 40 to 1 Facts: It takes 40 pints of tree sap from a sugar maple tree to make one pint of maple syrup. It takes 40 gallons of tree sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. Using that information, answer the following questions:  Read the rest of this entry »

Maple Sugar Moon & Sugar Shacking

Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back:
A Native American Year of Moons

By J. Bruchac & J. London
Illustrated by Thomas Locker

“In many Native American cultures each of the thirteen moons of the year is said to hold its own story, and each is powered by the turtle who is believed to contain the mystery of the moon in the shell of its back.”

Legend has it that North America is the back of a turtle and it’s eye is here in New England. If you take a close look at the shell of a turtle you can count out thirteen different plates on its carapace. And every year has thirteen moon cycles that complete the year.

According to Anishinabe legend, this month’s full moon, the 3rd moon, is called the Maple Sugar Moon, the only time of the year sap flows from the maple trees. In the hilltowns of Western Mass it’s the month steam pours out of our area sugar shacks and fresh maple sap is boiled down to make maple syrup. Many sugar shacks invite families to their annual pancake breakfasts during these weeks to enjoy fresh maple syrup and share in the process of making syrup.

There will be a maple sugaring showcase presented by Storrowton Village Museum in West Springfield, MA this weekend. Click here for details.
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HFVS Sheep Shearing & Maple Syrup Episode (Radio Show/Podcast)

Listen to Podcast:


Sheep Shearing
Shearing the sheep and skirting the fleece at Red Gate Farm in Buckland, MA. Click on photo to see more images. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfie

Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am
Feb. 28th, 2009
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA

New Podcasts ♦ Archived Podcasts Subscribe to Podcast
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  • Lunch Money – “Wake Up, World” – Dizzy Music
  • Pete Seeger – “Maple Syrup Time” – Seeds: The Songs of Pete Seeger
  • Kitty Donohoe  – “Maple Syrup” – Bunyan and Banjoes
  • Phil Rosenthal – “Buffalo Gals” – This Land is Your Land
  • Nashville Bluegrass Band & Kid Pan Alley – “Extra Hand” – Kid Pan Alley
  • Station Id: The Harmonica Pocket []
  • Carla Sciaky – “Sheep Shearing” – Spin the Weaver’s Song
  • Justin Roberts – “Field Trip” – Pop Fly
  • The Hipwaders – “Field Trip” – Goodie Bag Music
  • Station Id: Steve Weeks []
  • L. Frank Baum – The Story of Baa-Baa Black Sheep
  • Teresa Doyle – “The Shearing” – If Fish Could Sing … and Sheep Could Dance
  • Matt Nathanson – “Starfish and Coffee” – For the Kids Too
  • Moxy Fruvous – “Maple Syrup Time” – If I Had a Song: Songs of Pete Seeger Vol. 2
  • The Hipwaders – “Things You Want” – Goodie Bag Music

Suggested Events 02/28/09-03/06/09

Winter Playground: Metal Slide

Playground at the Northampton YMCA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)


If you have a family-friendly event or educational program happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, post your event on our “Suggest An Event” page.


CFC Family Contra Dance: This Saturday evening from 6:30-8:30pm the Cummington Family Center will host their 2nd Annual Family Contra Dance at the Cummington Community House on Main Street in Cummington, MA.  Steve Howland and his band will be calling and playing.  Bring a dessert for the dessert potluck.  Coffee, tea & water will be provided.  All are welcomed.  Tickets are $7.  Kids under 16 are free.


Newly release music

Tune in to the Hilltown Family Variety Show on Saturdays from 9-10am on Valley Free Radio (VFR), 103.3FM (Northampton, MA), or listen via streaming audio at Every Saturday VFR offers four hours of commercial-free, quality family program from 6-10am.  It’s better than Saturday morning cartoons!

We’re excited to share with our listeners some new fun music, including songs from  Lunch Money’s newest CD Dizzy, and Goodie Bag just released by The Hipwaders.  Great family albums!

Suggest an Event | Local Forecast | Get Directions | Free Museum Passes | School Closings and Delays | Family Centers (Ages 0-4) | Facebook

Events Happening in the Hilltowns

Saturday – 02/28

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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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