I can’t believe that I’ve never taken my kids maple sugaring! And they really want to go so I researched places near and far in Massachusetts to make it happen this year! Right now I am leaning towards The Warren Farm.
I am glad that The Warren Farm charges admission. This means that they take their tour seriously. I love that they incorporate the history of Native Americans’ who first tapped the sugar maple. I am also partial to Drumlin Farm. We have been going there for years for visits and school field trips and they do an amazing job of engaging kids.
Have you been maple sugaring? What is your favorite place? Please leave a comment.
Bear Goes Sugaring by Maxwell Eaton III
With a graphic novel format, Bear shows the reader the intricacies of maple sugaring. This is the perfect picture book to read before visiting a farm for a maple sugar tour. The page layout is a little busy so it’s not great for a read-aloud to a classroom, but it is chock full of information. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
All About Maple Sugaring
From Sap to Sweet—The Art of Maple Sugaring (from Mass Audubon)
Native Americans were perhaps the first to discover that sap from maple trees could be processed into maple syrup. One popular oral legend is that a Native American chief hit a sugar maple tree with his tomahawk and the sap began to flow. The clear liquid that dripped from the split in the tree collected in a container on the ground. His wife used the liquid to cook venison and discovered that the meat and the sweet liquid that remained were delicious. Another theory: the Native people observed squirrels, sapsuckers, spring moths, and butterflies drinking from open wounds in trees.
From Sap to Tap
Maple Syrup in the Making
New England maple syrup is produced during a short four- to six-week sugar window typically from early February into April. Conditions are optimum when the temperature rises above freezing during the day and then drops below freezing at night. This fluctuation in air temperature is vital, causing pressure to develop in the tree, which allows the sap to flow. As the maple sap flows up from the roots of the tree during the day, the maple syrup producer, or “sugarmaker,” taps the tree. Tapping involves boring a hole into the tree and placing a spout inside the tap hole. The sap runs out of the tree and lands in a bucket connected to the spout. Does this process harm the tree? When guidelines are followed and only healthy trees are tapped, no damage to the tree. It’s estimated that tapping removes only 10 percent of a tree’s sugar—an amount too small to harm a healthy tree under normal conditions.
Traditional maple syrup buckets or a complex piping system can deliver up to hundreds of gallons of fresh sap to a large gathering tank. From the gathering tank, the sap flows into a sugarhouse through a filter to an evaporator, where it is boiled, removing water from the sap.
As the sap continues to boil the liquid becomes sweeter, i.e. its sugaring content increases and changes to an amber color. Before the sap starts to evaporate, it has about 2 to 2 1/2 percent sugar content. (The sugar content in trees changes as the season progresses; sugar maple trees have the highest concentration of sugar).
After the boiling process, the sugar content is about 66 percent. Next, the maple syrup is put through another filter to remove “sugar sand,” which develops during the boiling and evaporation process. The maple syrup is then stored in stainless-steel drums for hot packaging into retail containers.
Maple Sugaring in Massachusetts
Where to Go
North Hadley Sugar Shack: open Wednesday through Sunday from Feb. 15th – April 12th for their pancake breakfast and sugaring tours.
South Face Farm, Ashfield, MA: Come visit us during maple sugaring season in March and early April. Our sugarhouse is always open for visitors, and on weekends our sugarhouse restaurant serves homemade pancakes, waffles, corn fritters, and many other special maple goodies. Try a stack of French Toast made with fresh homemade bread, topped with just made maple syrup. Because maple sap flow depends on just the right weather conditions, you may want to call ahead and see if we are boiling when you plan to visit.
Harwick Sugar Shack: Join us for an Open house at Hardwick Sugar Shack every Sunday in March from 11-4 pm. Follow the process of making maple syrup from tree to tasting. During the open house, you can sample the finished product, visit the horses, see the old-fashioned way of making syrup and enjoy hot mulled maple cider.
Maple Sugaring Events at Mass Audubon Sanctuaries
It’s sugarin’ time in the Blue Hills! Join Trailside and the Massachusetts DCR from 10:00 am-3:00 pm on Saturday, March 28, and Sunday, March 29, as we continue a more than 20-year-old tradition of making maple syrup at Brookwood Farm in the Blue Hills Reservation.
Discover how people learned to get sugar from a tree as you take a walk down “Maple Lane” to meet people who share the maple story and who help you handle and use sugar-making tools. Smell the wood smoke as you watch clouds of steam rise from bubbling sap cooking into syrup in the sugar house. And get a taste of real maple!
Blue Hills Trailside Museum
1904 Canton Avenue
Milton, MA 02186
Explore the history and production of this traditional New England crop. Learn about the structure, function, and seasonal adaptations of maple trees as we transform sap into syrup. We’ll examine the trees, collect sap, do some taste-testing and learn about sugaring equipment of today and yesteryear. This runs in February and March.
Grades: Pre K, K, 1, 2
- Children – $ 10.50
- Adults – $ 10.50
- 2 hour program: $10.50/student3 hour program: $12.00/student4 hour program: $14.00/student
Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary
208 South Great Road
Lincoln, MA 01773
Visit Moose Hill’s maple sugaring operation during this magical time as winter turns to spring. Learn first-hand that trees make sugar and the process needed to create syrup! Students will learn how tree function changes through the seasons; observe tools used by Native Americans, Colonial farmers, and today’s workers; and savor the different tastes of maple sap and syrup. Offered during February and March only.
Significant savings are offered when you select a second program to create a full-day of hands-on learning at Moose Hill. Because of our large trail system and full-day option, we can serve up to 130 students for many programs. We provide a ratio of one Moose Hill teacher-naturalist to 12 to 14 students.
- Children – $ 10.00
- Adults – $ 9.00
Sugaring Off Tours
Saturdays and Sundays, February 29–March 21
Afterward, warm up by the woodstove in the Barn, where hot dogs cooked in maple sap (aka sap dogs) and delicious soups and desserts made by our volunteers are available for purchase. Visit our gift shop to browse a selection of maple products, and be sure to bring home a bottle of our own freshly made maple syrup.
Members: $11 adult, $9 child
Nonmembers: $12 adult, $10 child
Tours last about an hour and run in all weather. Advanced registration is required.
Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary
87 Perkins Row
Topsfield, MA 01983
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