Caramel popcorn or tea, taffy-like candy-on-snow, fudgelike cream — maple syrup even finds its way into cocktails, marinades and salad dressing. Especially when it has a statewide festival. And it’s coming back this year, even in the pandemic, with precautions.
Dozens of sugarhouses across Massachusetts will be open for Maple Weekend, March 20 and 21. The Massachusetts Maple Growers Association will bring back their annual event this spring, offering an opportunity to visit local farms, talk with the farmers, and bring home some sweetness for weekend breakfasts.
When the days climb above freezing and the nights drop below, sap runs in the trees, says Winton Pitcoff of Plainfield, coordinator for the association. He is a hobbyist with 100 buckets. In its 71st year, he says, the association has some 260 members.
Some local farms welcome guests (though these days you’ll need to call ahead): Ioka Valley Farm in Hancock serves a maple breakfast on weekends with waffles and syrup, and mini corn muffins and maple butter. Holiday Brook Farm in Dalton offers farm animals to visit.
Others are smaller and not set up for day-today visitors. But on Maple Weekend many will open their doors.
“It has developed over the last few years,” Pitcoff says. “People are enjoying it. After a long winter, it’s a way to get outside.”
The sugar shacks give sap boiling demonstrations and tours of the sugar bush where they collect sap from the trees. People welcome the chance to get into the woods, when the snow cover is not too deep, he says. Families come to teach their children where their food comes from.
The celebration began in 2014, he says, following other states, and the Massachusetts association has added its own touch. They reach out to local restaurants to highlight maple syrup in their menus.
“So we can show it’s not just pancakes,” he says.
In the Berkshires, the Mass Maple Association’s farms include:
Woodlife Ranch in Williamstown, a family-owned and operated farm, producing food and forest products with environmentally responsible and sustainable processes. They have a webshop for maple syrup and honey too — including bourbon-barrel-aged vintages — if you’re not up for a visit just yet.
Mill Brook Sugar House in Lenox, making Pure Maple Syrup here in Lenox for more than 40 years (and maple sugar, maple granola and more) at the edge of October Mountain state forest, near the Roaring Brook Trail.
It’s always helpful to call a farm ahead before you stop by, and right now it can help the farm to make sure they are balancing the number of people there at any one time, to help keep everyone safe.
A longer local roundup of Berkshire maple growers
You can check out Berkshire Grown‘s roster of maple syrup producers. Many have webshops, and many will ship their syrup to you, and often more. They include:
Sweet Brook Farm in Williamstown, where Pete Phelps, fourth generation maple sugar farmer, boils his own syrup and maple cream up on Oblong Road near Cricket Creek Farm. He has a web store for syrup and farm meats as well.
Starry Ridge Farm in Petersburgh, N.Y., runs a CSA for produce in the summer — and runs sap through a reverse osmosis machine right now. They’ll boil the concentrated sap in their evaporator pan to cut the boiling time down by about 75.
Blair Farm in Williamstown, where Norma and Don Quimby keep a sap house and more along Route 43 (and you can call ahead at 413-458-5402)
Ioka Valley Farm on Route 43 in Hancock, where the sugar shack is open for tours and the seasonal maple cafe is open for pancakes and mini corn muffins with maple butter. You can also order their maple butter, syrup, cream and more from their online store.
Jennings Brook Farm in New Ashford taps their trees and raises beef, timber and berries.
Holiday Brook Farm in Dalton carries four grades of their own syrup, from golden to dark, and maple cream. Their online shop offers farm meats and prepared foods as well, and you can check out farm beef and pork, plant sale pre-orders and their summer CSA.
Justamere Tree Farm in Worthington, to the east, produces sustainable maple syrup with a hundred percent renewable energy, wood-fired and solar powered, along with maple sugar and maple cream, sugared nuts and gluten free pancake mix. Check out their web shop for more.
The Farm at Miller’s Crossing heading west is a 200-acre farm and farm store in Hudson, N.Y. They have maple syrup and cream, candy and sugar available for pickup.
Turner Farms Maple Syrup in South Egremong will take your order by phone or email, from the syrup choices on their website, and ship it to you.
Mountain Falls Farm in Sheffield sits at the foot of the Taconics and boasts with a view across the Housatonic River Valley, and the Appalachian Trail runs along the ridge above the farm. They raise beef and bees as well as tapping their trees.
Ridgway Farm in Cornwall, Conn., grows produce with heritage techniques as well as meat and eggs and flowers, and syrup in season.
Adamah Farm, the CSA farm at Hazon, the Jewish lab for sustainability and the the Isabella Freedman Center in Falls Village, Connecticut