Maple Sugaring

Earliest evidence of maple sugaring in the region comes from Native Americans tapping maple trees as early as 1609. A thrown tomahawk probably led to discovery of these frozen little icicle treats of sweetened sap. Though sap itself is not sweet, the boiling or freezing of it adds a sweetened taste - something you’ll probably never forget once tasted.

There’s a certain “knack” to maple sugaring. Sap won’t run if it’s too cold or too warm, so finding that delicate balance can be a bit tricky for novices. A clear Spring day, with thawing evenings is perhaps the right time to tap a hole into a sugar maple and let the sap drip slowly into a bucket. Then another and another because it takes 35-40 gallons of sap to boil down to one gallon of syrup! Sap can run sporadically from the first spring thaw until the buds turn into leaves from mid-March until April. Light syrup is generally the highest quality while the darker syrups are used for cooking.

There are four kinds of maples throughout the region: Sugar Maple (Hard Maple), Red Maple ( Swamp Maple), and Ash Leafed Maple ( Box Elder),Silver Maple (soft maple). Properly cared for sugar maples can be tapped at 40 years of age and will yield sap for 100 years or more.

Only about $2 million in revenue is derived in Massachusetts from sugaring - but perhaps this oldtime favorite will lead local entrepreneurs to reconsider a small operation. The River Bend Farm, in cooperation with the National Heritage Corridor offer actual instructional programs each March at River Bend Farm, Oak St, Uxbridge.

Recipes, wholesalers, process instructions can all be found at http://www.massmaple.org/info.html

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New Sugar House Reason to Celebrate

Maple Sugaring in the Blackstone Valley

Dignitaries to Attend Ribbon Cutting

 

Uxbridge, MA. A new maple sugaring house has been officially opened by the Blackstone Valley Sugaring Association with a ribbon cutting held in February 2007  at River Bend Farm Visitors Center at 287 Oak Street in the Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park in Uxbridge.

Federal, state and local officials were in attendance to celebrate the partnership between the programs of the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, the Commonwealth’s Department of Conservation and Recreation and the volunteers of the Blackstone Valley Sugaring Association who spearheaded the building of the new facility on the grounds of the Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park.

 

“This is a terrific Blackstone Valley story about how much can be accomplished with partners and volunteers working together,” Thomas E. Ross, Acting Executive Director of the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor said. “National Heritage Corridor staff has worked for six years to grow the national Volunteer in Parks program here in the Blackstone Valley and what started out as a family hobby is now supported by over four dozen volunteers and has evolved into a wonderful winter event for families and friends right here at River Bend Farm.”  

 

Two Uxbridge residents, Bill and Valerie Paul, officially created the non-profit Blackstone Valley Sugaring Association in 2006 to support and foster maple sugaring education and activities and to the preservation of maple trees throughout the Blackstone Valley of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. They work closely with Ranger Suzanne Buchanan, coordinator of the Volunteer in Parks (VIP) program at the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, to ensure that their Maple Sugar Days scheduled for weekends in March are well organized and running smoothly with plenty of support to assist participants. The VIP program logged 41, 980 hours of volunteers’ time in the Blackstone River Valley – the equivalent of over 20 full time employees – last year along. “The VIP’s insure that we have a consistent and well trained group of volunteers who are available to help us with demonstrations and other aspects of sugaring throughout the season,” Valerie Paul explained.

 

“We’re thrilled to celebrate the opening of this beautiful new Maple Sugar House at DCR’s Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park,” said the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Acting Commissioner Priscilla Geigis. “What began in 2002 as a single-day maple sugaring demonstration has grown into a three-week event attracting thousands of visitors.  We’re grateful to the dedicated volunteers from the Blackstone Valley Sugaring Association for helping to fund this new building and equipment along with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs Office of Public Private Partnerships. And we thank the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor for their ongoing support of the state park and its programs for visitors.”

 

The Blackstone Sugaring Association organizes Maple Sugar Days on weekends in March to tap maple trees in the Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park and boil the sap down to make maple syrup. Maple Sugar Days at the state park have averaged two thousand visitors over their series of weekend demo days scheduled throughout the month. Through a grant from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Fix It First Friends Program, Bill Paul was able to purchase a professional-sized indoor evaporator and to coordinate and purchase the materials needed to build a new sugar house. “The lumber used for our Sugar House was actually harvested from the Blackstone Gorge when several trees were removed to make room for the site’s new parking area,” he proudly noted.

The event will kick-off with a pancake breakfast with continuous seating from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. at the River Bend Farm Visitors Center. The Uxbridge First Holiday Night Committee is presenting the breakfast and will use all proceeds to help defray the costs associated with this year's 10th anniversary celebration scheduled for December 1, 2007. A $5 donation will be collected at the door.

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For more information, visit www.blackstonevalleysugaring.org.

Directions to River Bend Farm:

From the Mass Pike or Route 146

Take the Massachusetts Turnpike to Worcester/Providence Exit 10A to Route 146 South.  In 12 miles use the Uxbridge Exit for Route 16 and turn left onto Route 16 East, drive 2 miles to the traffic lights and turn left on Route 122 North, drive 1-1/4 mile and turn right at traffic light onto Hartford Ave.  In 1 mile, turn right on Oak Street at the UMass Memorial Tri-River Family Health Center.  Visitor Center is 1/10 mile down the road on the left in the red barn.

 

From Route 122

For those that prefer to travel through some of the mill villages, use Mass Pike Exit 11 for Millbury and follow Route 122 South for 13 miles and turn left onto Hartford Avenue in north Uxbridge (CVS across the street). In 1 mile, turn right on Oak Street at the UMass Memorial Tri-River Family Health Center.  Visitor Center is 1/10 mile down the road on the left in the red bar

 

 

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