It’s maple sugaring season in Massachusetts. Sugarmakers and local officials will gather on March 4 at 10 a.m. at Stonegate Farm in Conway to mark the beginning of Maple Month. Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) Commissioner John Lebeaux will tap the ceremonial first tree of the season and read a proclamation from Governor Baker declaring March to be Maple Month in Massachusetts.
As with any agricultural crop, the maple harvest is dependent upon the weather, and this year has brought an early crop for many of the more than 300 sugarmakers in Massachusetts. Sap runs when nights are cold and days are above freezing, so warm periods in early and mid-February gave some maple producers a chance to get a head start on the season. The lack of snow has also been a plus for sugarmakers, making working in the woods much easier than in recent years.
“It’s great to have an early season,” said Massachusetts Maple Producers Association Coordinator Winton Pitcoff. “Many Massachusetts sugarmakers have already made lots of excellent syrup, and we hope the weather holds for a while so we can continue sugaring through March.” Many sugarhouses are open to the public, with maple syrup and other products available for sale. A directory is available online.
Demand for local maple products has increased in recent years, as more consumers have discovered its versatility in baking and cooking, as well as its health benefits. Pure Massachusetts maple products are naturally gluten-, allergen- and fat-free, and have fewer calories and more minerals and nutrients than other sweeteners.
The season will also be marked by Maple Weekend, March 19-20, when sugarhouses around the state will be open to visitors who want to see syrup being made, learn about the process and history of maple production, and sample and purchase the Commonwealth’s sweetest crop. Many restaurants will feature menu items made with Massachusetts maple syrup that weekend as well.
The 2015 season yielded a record crop for the Massachusetts maple industry, with 75,000 gallons produced. The previous two years were excellent as well, with producers making more than 60,000 gallons each year, contributing millions of dollars in sales to the State’s agricultural economy. Sugarmakers are adopting more sustainable management practices and using technological advances to make more maple syrup with less energy.