Photo: High Hopes Farm in Worthington

Governor Charlie Baker has declared March as “Massachusetts Maple Month” in the Commonwealth, in recognition of the important role maple syrup and other maple products have in the state’s agricultural sector.

Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Kathleen Theoharides, Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) Commissioner John Lebeaux, local officials, and representatives from the Massachusetts Maple Association toured maple sugaring houses throughout Western Massachusetts to raise awareness of the Commonwealth’s many maple producers and to encourage residents to purchase locally-produced maple products.

“Maple sugar producers have long been a unique and important part of the Massachusetts agricultural sector, and our Administration is proud to continue to support the industry,” said Governor Baker. “By declaring March as Massachusetts Maple Month, it is my hope that we bring awareness to the industry and encourage everyone to buy locally produced maple products this season.”

The tour included a stop at Stonegate Farm Sugarhouse in Conway, Paul’s Sugar House in Williamsburg, and Justamere Tree Farm in Worthington. Secretary Theoharides and Commissioner Lebeaux toured the sugaring houses where they learned more about each farm’s individualized operation.

MDAR Deputy Commissioner Ashley Randle was joined by other state and local officials at Sweet Water Sugarhouse in Royalston, for a ceremonial sugar maple tree tapping to celebrate the launch of maple month.

“For generations, maple syrup producers have provided the Commonwealth and beyond with delicious products for us all to enjoy,” said EEA Secretary Theoharides. “Through the purchasing of maple syrup products made right here in Massachusetts, we are greatly supporting producers, their families, and local businesses, which has a lasting impact on the state’s regional economies.”

“After a particularly long and hard winter, the naturally sweet taste of the Commonwealth’s first seasonal crop of the year is the traditional delicious indicator that spring approaches,” said MDAR Commissioner Lebeaux. “Massachusetts Maple Producers continue to innovate and deliver internationally renowned quality maple products, maintain their woodlands, and reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.”

“Residents and visitors are more enthusiastic than ever for ‘Made in MA’ products, as they continue to rediscover our farms and open spaces this year,” said Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism Executive Director Keiko Matsudo Orrall.“These locally-made maple syrup products by farmers and local businesses underscore our My Local MA campaign to put your money where your heart is, right here in Massachusetts.”

According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s 2017 Agricultural Census, the Commonwealth is home to approximately 300 maple syrup producers that serve as stewards of more than 15,000 acres of woodland. The annual production of maple syrup is more than 70,000 gallons, which is worth over $5 million to farmers. Maple sugaring profits allow many farms to stay in business year-round by serving as a secondary crop and a secondary source of income. As one of the region’s unique agricultural foods, visitors come from all over the world to buy products during the sugaring season. Farms, restaurants, bed and breakfasts, country inns, and other tourist businesses share in this income, which primarily flows into small towns and farm communities.

Maple syrup has been consumed for centuries in North America, and is one of the first agricultural awakenings of spring. Tree tapping in Massachusetts can start as early as late January and continue through April, though March is officially the kickoff of Maple Month. Importantly, the temperatures at night must be below freezing and during the days, above freezing for the tree sap to flow. Furthermore, weather, soil, and genetics of the tree can affect maple syrup flavor.

In the past five years, the Baker-Polito Administration, through the Department of Agricultural Resources, has awarded $316,440 in Agricultural Energy grants to maple producers throughout the state. These grants have been used to offset the costs of installing updated, environmentally friendly equipment, including high efficiency evaporators, heat recovery and reverse osmosis equipment.

Please visit Massachusetts Maple Producers Association (MMPA) to learn more about the maple sugaring process. Go to the MassGrown website and click on maple for a complete listing of maple sugar houses.

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