Massachusetts officials have proclaimed March 2022 as Massachusetts Maple Month, a tribute to the sugar producers and small farms whose traditions go back centuries in the Commonwealth.
On Friday, March 4, Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) Commissioner John Lebeaux, state and local officials, and representatives from the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association visited Grand Maple Farms in New Braintree, MA to raise awareness of the state’s many maple producers and to encourage residents to purchase locally-produced maple products.
The visit to Grand Maple Farms included a tour of their facility along with a ceremonial tapping of a maple tree to commemorate the start of the sugaring season. Owners Justin and Paul Schur began their business with 23 taps in 2011, which has now grown to over 900 taps including sugar maple and red maple trees.
“Our Administration is happy to continue the tradition of recognizing our maple sugar producers who have long been a unique and important part of the Massachusetts agricultural industry, contributing over $12 million to the local economy and employing more than 1,000 workers,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “We are proud to support them and hope everyone will do the same by purchasing locally produced maple products this season.”
“The start of maple season is always an exciting time, ushering in a new growing season here in the Commonwealth,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “With snow still on the ground, visiting a Massachusetts sugarhouse offers a picturesque New England experience while supporting our local economy by providing a boost that not only benefits our maple producers but also provides other surrounding tourist destinations, such as restaurants and bed and breakfasts, with additional revenue opportunities.”
In the past six years, the Baker-Polito Administration, through MDAR, has awarded $341,785 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.
“Maple syrup is a delicious local product that is part of our agricultural heritage in Massachusetts and maple sugar producers are true stewards of our land, protecting over 15,000 acres of woodland,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “The Commonwealth’s maple sugar producers have also been pioneers and innovators, adopting cutting-edge energy efficient and environmentally-friendly technologies for harvesting and managing their maple groves.”
“As we shake off another winter season and as residents are eager to venture out, I can’t think of a better way to usher in a new growing season than to bring the family out to a local sugarhouse this month for a pancake breakfast complete with some freshly produced local Massachusetts maple syrup,” said MDAR Commissioner John Lebeaux. “Like with so many other aspects of our culture, the history of Massachusetts is tied to the history of maple, and when you buy Commonwealth produced products, you are not only supporting local farmers but you are honoring the history and legacy of our agricultural past.”
According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s 2017 Census of Agriculture, Massachusetts is home to approximately 300 maple syrup producers who produce over 70,000 gallons of syrup each year. Producers help to maintain thousands of acres of open working landscapes across the Commonwealth. Maple sugaring profits allow many farms to stay in business year-round by serving as a secondary crop and supplemental 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, helping the local economy. Massachusetts ranks among the top 10 maple producing states in the U.S.
“Agricultural tourism attracts visitors and residents alike to our farms and rural areas, and the maple syrup season is particularly popular this time of year,” said Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism Executive Director Keiko Matsudo Orrall. “These delicious Made in MA maple products align with our My Local MA campaign to support small businesses right here in Massachusetts.”
“The basics of sugarmaking haven’t changed in hundreds of years,” said Massachusetts Maple Producers Association Coordinator Winton Pitcoff. “Take one ingredient – pure maple sap – and boil it down until it’s the perfect density for maple syrup. Sugarmakers have adopted modern techniques though, and use sustainable management and production practices to make the highest quality products efficiently and safely. And consumers have learned about what a versatile product maple syrup is, using it as a sweetener in their coffee, as an ingredient in baked goods, marinades, dressings, and of course, on pancakes!”
Here is a directory of maple syrup producers in Massachusetts.
In addition to the month-long celebration, the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association is hosting its Maple Weekend on March 19-20. During this weekend, sugarhouses across the Commonwealth will host demonstrations, tours and tastings. Here is a directory of participating sugar houses.
The Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) President Warren Shaw said, “We encourage everyone to support their local farmers and purchase a gallon of syrup. As a dairy farmer, I know that many fellow dairies tap maple trees as the syrup offers a secondary income that helps them stay in business.”
Maple syrup has been produced and consumed for centuries in North America and its initial availability during the tail end of the winter season signals the start of the agricultural awakening in Massachusetts and a sure sign that spring is around the corner. Tree tapping in Massachusetts can start as early as late January and continue through April, though March is officially Maple Month. Most importantly, the temperatures must be below freezing at night and above freezing during the days for the tree sap to flow. Furthermore, weather, soil, and genetics of the tree can affect maple syrup flavor.