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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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.

SUGAR SHACKING

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 www.massvacation.com and www.massmaple.org 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 www.goulds-sugarhouse.com

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 www.highhopesmaple.com

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
www.hangingmountainfarms.com

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) 585-8820www.northhadleysugarshack.com

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 www.pomeroysugarhouse.com

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  www.southfacefarm.com

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  www.iokavalleyfarm.com

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