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Is February the new March?: Sugaring begins

  • Grades of maple syrup produced at Dana Goodfield’s Bardwells Ferry Road sugar house. Recorder File Photo/Paul Franz

  • Visitors check out the boiler at Williams Farm Sugarhouse, on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018 in South Deerfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Jaden Austin, 8, enjoys playing with her sugar on snow dish before eating it at Williams Farm Sugarhouse, on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018 in South Deerfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Cyndie Bennett pours maple syrup for a dish of sugar on snow at Williams Farm Sugarhouse, on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018 in South Deerfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Sandy Williams checks the aproning of the syrup at Williams Farm Sugarhouse, on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018 in South Deerfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Doug Bennett stirs a batch of syrup at Williams Farm Sugarhouse, on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018 in South Deerfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Williams Farm Sugarhouse, on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018 in South Deerfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Jugs of maple syrup at Williams Farm Sugarhouse, on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018 in South Deerfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Katie Costa, right, visits the Williams Farm Sugarhouse with her two daughters Annie and Nora, and friend Maria Gendron, on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018 in South Deerfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Alexandria Heller and her 1-year-old daughter Karolina check out the boiler at Williams Farm Sugarhouse, on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018 in South Deerfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little



Recorder Staff
Sunday, February 25, 2018

It’s not March yet, but Boyden Brothers Maple of Conway has already made 100 gallons of maple syrup from trees tapped this month.

“We boiled our first sap on (February) 20th” said Howard Boyden, who runs the Route 116 sugarhouse and retail store with his wife, Jeanne. “That’s the earliest we’ve ever boiled,” he said. And the year before, we boiled on the 21st — and that was the earliest we had boiled until now.”

“My son says February is the new March, and it seems that way. I think we’re just a little rushed,” Boyden said. “But it’s nice to get a first batch of early syrup already made.”

Boyden said there is a four- to five-week “window” of gathering sap, and that farmers have to be aware of when it starts. “We used to set up at the end of the school vacation week,” he said. “Last year, I started tapping on Valentine’s Day. But I found, we have to start tapping earlier or we’d miss the window.”

Davenport Farm in Shelburne Falls

On Tuesday, a day of near record-warmth, Davenport Farm began putting in the first of its 2,500 maple taps, in hopes of a good season to come.

“We’ve started tapping, and there was a pretty good flow of sap that day,” said Maegan (Davenport) Senser, a fifth-generation farmer.

After a day or two of flow, the sap can be gathered for the evaporator that is in prominent view for customers who come in for pancakes and waffles with maple syrup. Davenport Maple Farm Restaurant opens next Saturday, March 3, and is open on weekends through April.

Recently, the farm has added some new technology: They are now tapping with narrower tubing, which creates a vacuum and results in a faster flow of sap and more syrup. Also, they’re using check valve spouts, which have ball bearings that block the end of the tap lines once the sap stops running for the day. Otherwise, Senser said, “the trees will suck some of the sap back from the hole, which closes the wound.” She said keeping the hole clean and open until the tapping season is over helps it to heal better keep out pests.

“All the syrup used in the restaurant is made here, from our own trees,” said Senser. The farm has been in existence since 1770, although Senser doesn’t know exactly how long sugaring operations have gone on. She said her family has been sugaring ever since buying the farm in 1913.

Gould’s in Shelburne

Gould’s Sugarhouse in Shelburne has already been cooking up fresh syrup extra early. “We have boiled once, and we have had a very good result,” said Helen Gould. “The syrup was nice and we did very well. We did have a good run this week and had a very long day” on Thursday, which was when the syrup was made.

“Everything we do depends upon the weather,” she said. “This is early. Usually, we’re just thinking about it (making syrup) — and here we are.”

The Goulds have been making maple syrup and maple products for 59 years and will open Thursday, March 1, with pancakes, corn fritters and waffle breakfasts.

Stonegate Farm in Conway

Dana Goodfield’s Stonegate Farm in Conway lost many trees during the tornado of 2016, but says his business is rebounding. “We recovered very nicely,” he said. “We’re all tapped and have already boiled. We’ve made 120 to 130 gallons so far,” he said.

Goodfield said he sells his syrup wholesale and will soon deliver a large order in Rhode Island. When asked if it is difficult to deal with the weather fluctuations, Goodfield said, “It is, but we’ll deal with it.”

According to the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association, Massachusetts has at least 300 maple producers, with 80 percent or more west of Interstate 91. Sugaring season brings in about 60,000 visitors, who spend about $2 million at farms and restaurants, bed and breakfasts, inns and other tourist businesses.

Maple sugaring income has enabled many dairy farms to stay in operation by providing a secondary source of income. Also, almost all maple syrup made in Massachusetts is sold within the state, benefiting both farmers and their customers.