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 »

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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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

Suggested Events for Feb 25th-March 2nd, 2012

Discover fun and educational events happening this week in Western Mass, along with announcements, upcoming events, links, resources and the HFVS podcast.


Maple Sugar Season is arriving 2 weeks early this year! Trees are being tapped, sap is being boiled and many sugar shacks will be serving up breakfast as early as this weekend (most start serving next weekend). Click on the photo for a list of Sugar Shacks in Western MA. Give them a call to see when they will be boiling and serving up their sweet harvest! Take the kids and enjoy breakfast together as a family! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield

Suggest EventIf 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. The events below are “suggested.” Please take the time to confirm that these events are happening, along with time, place, age appropriateness and costs before attending.

Enhanced PublicityServing Western Massachusetts since 2005, Hilltown Families supports development and enhancement of our local economy and community. Local businesses, individuals, schools and non-profits are encouraged to partner with Hilltown Families through sponsorship and advertising. Let us help get the word out about your after school class, event, camp, workshop, fundraiser, business or announcement. Deliver your message to thousands of families living throughout Western Massachusetts while supporting the work of Hilltown Families. Click HERE to find out more.


Ice Skating in Western MASaturday, February 25 at 11:30am – FAMILY PERFORMANCE: Gustafer Yellowgold performs live today at MASS MoCA!  It’s a live/animated show for kids that parents will enjoy too- the New York Times described it as a combination of Yellow Submarine and Dr. Seuss.  413-662-2111.  1040 Mass MoCA Way.  North Adams, MA.  ($)

Later in the day on Saturday, February 25 from 5-8pm – FIRE & ICE: Red Gate Farm hosts Fire and Ice tonight!  Bring your own sled for sliding down the hill, then warm up at a bonfire afterward!  There will be food and a grill for cooking, as well as hot cocoa and s’mores for dessert.  413-625-9503.  4 Norman Road.  Buckland, MA.  (<$) [READ THIS UPDATE]

Sunday, February 26 from 12:30am-3pm in Franklin Co. – LOCAL HISTORY: In 1704, the English settlement of Deerfield was raided by a group of Pocomtuck Indians and French settlers.  Visit Deerfield today to learn about the controversy surrounding the event and the effect that it had on the area.  The Indian House will be open all day, and there will be historical re-enactors sharing stories about the event and what happened to Deerfield afterwards.  Kids can learn about the history of the settlement of the Pioneer Valley, and information that they learn can help them in developing a more sensitive view of the events that took place during the settlement of New England.  Old Main Street.  Deerfield, MA.  (FREE)

Family concert with Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem in Northampton on March 3rd. Deadline to enter to win is 02/29/12 by 7pm (EST).

Sunday, February 26  at 1pm in Hampden Co. – FAMILY ADVENTURE: Holyoke is hosting a Amazing Race-style event for families!  Beginning at Heritage State Park, the race requires that families follow clues and visit locations near the park in order to finish the race!  There are great prizes available and the race offers families a chance to learn more about Holyoke!  413-552-3363.  221 Appleton Street.  Holyoke, MA.  ($)


Family concert with UNCLE ROCK at Flywheel in Easthampton on Saturday, March 10th at 10am. Presented by Hilltown Families, No Nap Happy Hour Series and Flywheel.

Saturday, March 3rd from 10am-3pm – MUSEUM ADVENTURES: It’s Free Family Day at the Smith College Museum of Art today!  Explore the galleries and enjoy hands-on art and music making!  A trip to the museum can teach kids about art within a family-friendly setting.  413-585-2760.  Elm Street.  Northampton, MA.  (FREE)

Sunday, March 4th from 12noon-5pm – COMMUNITY SERVICE/SEWING: Help BagShare today by participating in an afternoon of sewing!  Today is bag repair day- old bags that are beginning to tear or get worn out will be patched and sewn back together.  It’s okay if you don’t know how to sew- you can learn!  Kids can help out, too, as long as they’re old enough to use a sewing machine (use your own discretion).  Takes place at the Cummington Community House.  413-634-5591.  Main Street.  Cummington, MA.  (FREE)


CHILDCARE OPENINGS: Little Bear Learn & Care, a high quality childcare program serving the Greater Easthampton Area, has limited openings available in their infant and two year classrooms. Offering childcare for infants, toddlers and preschoolers, Little Bear’s welcoming family atmosphere and creative free play environment supports the critical brain-building development of a child’s first five years of life, building a foundation of valuable social/emotional adeptness for later learning. Through basic sign language, modeling and role playing, Little Bear encourages the development of healthy communication skills. To schedule a visit or to find out more about current openings, call 413-203-1776, or visit online at

HILLTOWN IDOLS: Coming soon: Hilltown Idols! An adult & child karaoke competition/fundraiser for the Cultural Arts Committee (CAC) of the Williamsburg Schools. Auditions are Sat., 3/3, with the Final Performance on Sat., 3/10 at 7pm at the Dunphy School in Williamsburg. The competition is open to children & adults from near and far! There are four competition groups: Grades 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, & Adults. Prizes will be awarded to winners. Entry fee for contestants in Grades 3-12 is $5.00 & $25.00 for adults. Register by 3/2! Tickets for audience members on 3/3 are $2/individual or $5/family for the day. Tickets for the Final Performance on 3/10 are $5(Ages 3-18), $10(Adults), or $20 per family. See for details.

SUMMER CIRCUS ARTS CAMP: SHOW Circus Studio announces three rings of Circus Summer Camp for children ages 6-15 this August in Easthampton: Aug 6-10, 13-17 & 20-24. These three week-long camps will run from 9am-3pm each day and will cover all aspects of circus including trapeze, fabric, juggling, balancing, acrobatics, partnering, human pyramids, stretching, strength, & circus games/activities. Each week of camp will end with a performance for friends & family on the last day. A great way to spend your summer! Cost: $250/week. For registration & more information please visit: & click on Circus Camps.

SPONSORSHIP & ADVERTISING: Reach thousands of families in Western MA while supporting the work of Hilltown Families. See your event, camp, workshop, business featured here in the bulletin board section of our list of Weekly Suggested Events and eNewsletter! Find out more about our Enhanced Publicity options and how we can help with your marketing.

MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY: The Springfield Library is offering free concerts in the Rotunda beginning Feb 26 at 1pm with the sweet sounds of Jesse Doane, whose original & improvisational Celtic harp music has the power to relax & inspire. Bring the entire family to enjoy the monthly hour-long performances featuring different types of music, including classical, popular, and ethnic improvisations presented by local, professional musicians. Other performers & Sunday dates include: Meadow Flutes on March 25, Carol Hutter String Quartet on April 22, & Dixieland Stomp on May 27. In addition, the New England Winds, a division of the USAF Band of Liberty, will play in the Rotunda on Wed, June 6 at 6:30pm. Please call the Central Library at 413-263-6828 x213 for more info.

FARM TO SCHOOL: The 2nd statewide MA Farm to School Convention will be held on March 15, at Old Sturbridge Village! Sessions will run from 9-4:45. Registration at 8:15 & attendance includes a lunch featuring locally sourced ingredients. This full-day convention will feature leaders in the farm to school movement providing info on everything from creating school gardens to overcoming barriers to local foods procurement to the growing partnerships between schools & community farms. Come hear how inspiring food service directors, educators, farmers, advocates, & students are building connections between cafeterias, dining halls, classrooms, & farms in MA, & learn what you can do to further those connections. Register at

Feb 25th—March 2nd, 2012


Suggest an Event | Forecast | Museum Passes
Weekly eNewsletter | Events for Working Parents | Workshops for Parents

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Suggested Events 03/14/09-03/20/09

Mud Season Road Closure

Mud Season in the hilltown! (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.


The sugar shack are all fired up!  Point out to your kids as you drive by the plumbs of steam rising up as barrels of sap are brought in from the sugar bushes and cooked down into maple syrup.  Several sugar shacks offer a pancake breakfast to go along with their fresh maple syrup.  Check out the post, Maple Sugar Moon, for area sugar shacks that offer breakfast, tours and demos.  This weekend are a few special events that celebrate sugaring season.  See their listings below.

On St. Patrick’s Day (Tuesday, March 17), Mariana Iranzi will do a free after-school show at Cup & Top Cafe in the center of Florence, MA at 4pm. Join Mariana for a bilingual musical afternoon adventure for the whole family!


Billy Jonas & Robbert Bobbert

New Music by Bill Jonas & Robbert Bobbert

We are pleased to offer four free tickets to see the Pioneer Valley Symphony (PVS) featuring Grammy winning storyteller, Bill Harley and Peter and the Wolf in Greenfield, MA at the Greenfield High School Auditorium on Saturday, March 28th, at 7 pm, courtesy of PVS. Deadline to enter is Wednesday, 03/25/09 @ 7pm (EST).   Click HERE for more details and to enter to win.

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, including Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child from 7am-9am.  It’s better than Saturday morning cartoons!

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 – 03/14

Bill Harley

Click here to enter to win free tickets!

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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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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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