To celebrate the dawn of a new agricultural season in Massachusetts, Governor Maura Healey is declaring March to be Massachusetts Maple Month in the Commonwealth.
On Friday, March 3, Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) Commissioner John Lebeaux, state and local officials, and representatives from the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association visited Maple Corner Farm in Granville to raise awareness of the Commonwealth’s maple sugar industry and to encourage residents to purchase locally produced maple products.
“Our Administration stands in support of our maple sugar producers who, for generations, have contributed to the bounty of Massachusetts agriculture by providing jobs to over a thousand workers, contributing over $15 million to the local economy, and maybe most importantly, producing the freshest tasting maple syrup and other maple products,” said Governor Maura Healey. “We encourage everyone to visit a local sugar house this month to learn more about the process of making maple syrup, enjoy a hearty breakfast complete with Massachusetts maple syrup, and purchase some bottles to take home.”
Read Governor Healey’s Maple Month proclamation.
“The production of maple sugar products in the Commonwealth yields enormous benefit to the maintenance and preservation of open space,” said Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll. “Aside from the delicious products that they make, maple sugar farms protect over 15,000 acres of woodland. In addition, thanks to MDAR grants, maple sugar farmers have installed updated and environmentally friendly equipment to lower their energy usage and production costs, making them more energy efficient and sustainable.”
The visit to Maple Corner Farm included a tour of their facility along with a ceremonial tapping of a maple tree to commemorate the official start of the sugaring season. Owners Leon K. Ripley and Joyce M. Ripley and their sons have been running the farm since 1982. The Ripley family has been farming the land for eight generations going back to 1812. Once a beef and dairy operation, the farm now produces hay, pure maple syrup, and maple products, as well as pick-your-own blueberries. From mid-February through mid-April, their sugar house is open to the public where visitors can watch maple sap being boiled into maple syrup. On weekends during the maple sugaring season, they serve breakfast from 8:00AM to 2:00PM. Maple syrup, maple candy, maple cream, and homemade jam, jelly, and fruit butters are available for sale year-round. For the current fiscal year, Maple Corner Farm received a total of $40,500 in Climate Smart Agriculture Program grants for the installation of updated energy-efficient equipment.
Since 2018, MDAR has awarded over $400,000 in Agricultural Climate Smart 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, lowering carbon footprints and environmental impacts.
“As another winter winds down in Massachusetts, we prepare yet again for the coming growing season by bringing attention to our maple sugaring farmers who have been hard at work, getting ready to ramp up their production of this year’s supply of maple products,” said MDAR Commissioner John Lebeaux. “Maple syrup and other sugar products have been enjoyed by countless individuals over the centuries. The practice of extracting sap from maple trees goes back hundreds of years to the Indigenous populations. We are the latest in a long line of people enjoying a time-honored traditional product that evokes our agricultural past and heritage.”
All month long, maple sugar houses around the state will open their doors to host visitors with fun, family-friendly interactive activities, as well as serving stacks of pancakes and waffles covered in local maple syrup. Maple sugaring is one of the few agritourism activities available during the early months of the year. Over 60,000 visitors spend more than $2 million 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.
“Visitors to Massachusetts are always on the lookout for immersive experiences such as sugar houses and local farms, and they are keen to purchase sustainable, home-grown products such as maple syrup as souvenirs of their trip,” said Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism Executive Director Keiko Matsudo Orrall. “Maple month in Massachusetts provides a perfect way for visitors to explore our farms and rural areas while also supporting small businesses and local communities during the tourism shoulder season.”
“The maple season got started early this year so many sugarmakers are off to a great start, making the Commonwealth’s first agricultural crop of the year,” said Massachusetts Maple Producers Association Coordinator Winton Pitcoff. “Weather conditions look good for the season to continue for a while and sugarhouses around the state are welcoming visitors who want to celebrate maple month by learning about how pure maple products are made. Of course, visitors can also purchase all-natural, versatile, delicious maple syrup directly from local sugar makers, helping to support local agriculture and the environment.”
“I am really excited to kick off Massachusetts Maple Month in Granville and have the chance to showcase some of the best agricultural products that Massachusetts has to offer,” said State Senator Paul Mark (D-Becket). “The Berkshire, Hampden, Franklin and Hampshire District is lucky to have so many great natural resources that we get to share with the rest of the Commonwealth. I encourage everyone to do their part by taking advantage of the opportunity to visit a local maple producer, learn more about the production process and the importance of the industry to our communities, and buy locally made Massachusetts products which are easily the best in the world.”
“Maple sugar farms, like the Ripley family’s, have been a cherished part of our heritage for over two centuries and are a vital part of the economy,” said State Representative Nicholas Boldyga (R-Southwick). “Their dedication to the craft is a testament to the enduring spirit of our local community. During the Massachusetts maple season, we can all take pride in the hard work and perseverance of farmers like the Ripley family who continue to produce some of the best maple products in the world. My family and I love fresh Massachusetts maple syrup on our Saturday morning pancakes! Everyone should experience the deliciousness of the maple season for themselves and visit one of the many maple farms throughout the state.”
According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s latest 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.
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, above freezing for the tree sap to flow. Furthermore, weather, soil, and genetics of the tree can affect maple syrup flavor.
Please visit Massachusetts Maple Producers Association (MMPA) to learn more about the maple sugaring process. For a complete listing of maple sugar houses in the Commonwealth, go to the MassGrown website.
For information about visiting Massachusetts, go to Vistma.com.