March is Massachusetts Maple Month

To celebrate a new agricultural season in Massachusetts, Governor Maura Healey is declaring March as Massachusetts Maple Month. Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) Commissioner Ashley Randle joined state and local officials and representatives from the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association today at Severance Maple Products in Northfield to raise awareness of the state’s maple sugar industry and to encourage residents to visit their local sugar house and purchase locally made maple products.

In a recent visit to Severance Maple Products included a tour of their operations and retail store, along with a reading of a Governor’s Proclamation and ceremonial tapping of a maple tree to commemorate the official start of the sugaring season. Owners Milt and Robin Severance have been sugaring since 1976. Their first year yielded a couple of gallons of maple syrup, but today, they produce a couple thousand gallons annually. All of their products are produced locally in Northfield at their sugarhouse kitchen, with availability online, in local stores, and at craft and agricultural fairs in the area.

Massachusetts is one of the top maple-producing states in the country, home to over 300 maple producers that produce more than 70,000 gallons per year. The sector employs over a thousand people, contributing over $15 million to the local economy. Maple sugaring profits allow many Massachusetts farms to stay in business year-round by diversifying their offerings, serving as a supplemental source of income to their other crops.

“We are tapping into this maple month with more support and appreciation for our sugarmakers than ever. The maple industry is not only economically, culturally, and historically important for the region but also plays a vital role in our environmental and climate resilience efforts,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rebecca Tepper. “The industry maintains and preserves more than 15,000 acres of land and is working to modernize equipment and install renewable energy sources. We are proud to see this the sector transition to one of the state’s most energy efficient and sustainable in agriculture.”

Since 2018, MDAR has awarded over half a million dollars in Climate Smart Agriculture Program 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, and photovoltaic solar arrays, lowering carbon footprints and environmental impacts.

“Our farming community had an enormously challenging year in 2023, so it’s with great optimism that we usher in a new growing season and celebrate our maple producers with the first agricultural crop of the year,” said MDAR Commissioner Ashley Randle. “While the maple sugaring season may be brief in Massachusetts, our maple producers work hard year-round to bring us this naturally sweet and nutritionally dense crop that is versatile and universally enjoyed by all. We’re proud to support them, and I can’t wait to enjoy a pancake breakfast topped with fresh maple syrup at a local sugarhouse this month.”

All month long, maple sugarhouses around the state will open their doors to host visitors with fun, family-friendly interactive activities, as well as serving stacks of pancakes, waffles, and French toast 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.

“Sugarhouses and local farms across Massachusetts provide memorable and immersive experiences for visitors of all ages,” said Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism Executive Director Kate Fox. “We encourage visitors and residents alike to check out Massachusetts sugarhouses during Maple Month, where they can experience a behind-the-scenes tour, sample delicious treats, and purchase local maple syrup and maple products from these unique small businesses.”

“I’m so thankful to kick off maple season here in the Second Franklin District,” said Representative Susannah Whipps (I – Athol). “This brief sweet period of time is a sign that spring is coming and a reminder of the importance of this industry to our economy, tourism and food system.”

“I am delighted to join Governor Healey, EEA Secretary Tepper, MDAR Commissioner Randle, the MA Maple Producers Association, and many others in celebrating March as Massachusetts Maple Month,” said Senator Jo Comerford (D-Northampton). “I am tremendously proud to represent many outstanding maple producers who are living and working in the Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester district.”

“We expect a great maple syrup harvest this spring as many sugarmakers across the state are off to an early start,” said Massachusetts Maple Producers Association Coordinator Missy Leab. “As the sweet steam rises from our local sugarhouses this spring, we encourage everyone to take the opportunity and visit one or more of the 300+ Massachusetts maple producers where you can talk with a sugarmaker, ask all your maple questions, and see, smell, and taste spring! Watch the fascinating process of turning fresh maple sap into pure maple syrup. Don’t forget to bring home a jug of Massachusetts sweetest crop: pure maple syrup!”

Maple syrup has been produced and consumed for centuries in North America. Its initial availability during the tail end of the winter season signals the start of the agricultural awakening in Massachusetts and is 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.

Please visit the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association (MMPA) to learn more about the maple sugaring process. For a complete listing of maple sugar houses in the Commonwealth, visit the MassGrown website.

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