Maple Sugaring House at River Bend Farm

Blackstone Valley Sugaring Association Opens New Sugar House

 

   The Blackstone Valley Sugaring Association is a non-profit organization whose mission is 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.

   Uxbridge residents officially created the Blackstone Valley Sugaring Association in 2006 and they work closely with Ranger Suzanne Buchanan who coordinates the Volunteer in Parks (VIP) program through the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor and CorridorKeepers. Last year the program logged 41,980 hours of volunteers’ time in the Blackstone River Valley – the equivalent of over 20 full time employees. “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.

 

The association organizes programs that 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 through February and March. 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.

 

A pancake breakfast is held each February or March.

 

A special collaboration with the Rainbow Palette also based in Uxbridge has developed into a very special art show at River Bend Farm starting with the pancake breakfast and throughout Maple Sugar Days. Coordinated by local artist Laura Cenedella, a number of local artists have hand painted scenes from the Blackstone Valley on vintage maple buckets. Visitors will be able to bid on the buckets through a Silent Auction which will run through the end of this year’s program. Proceeds from the silent auction will benefit the BVSA and the Rainbow Palette's TLC program for disabled artists.

 

 

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For more information, visit www.blackstonevalleysugaring.org.

 

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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