Sunday, February 10, 2008

Massachusetts Farm Fears Maple Shortage

Farm sees maple shortage
By Maureen Sullivan/Staff Writer
Wed Feb 06, 2008, 08:27 AM EST
Dover-Sherborn Press, Needham, Massachusetts

SOUTH NATICK - The Natick Community Organic Farm off Route 16 has been growing of late. Solar panels now gleam from their perch atop the barn, and there are plans to build a bigger farm stand.
Even the sugar shack, symbol of one of the farm’s longest-running programs, has been expanded to accommodate more visitors, especially school groups.

Now all the farm has to worry about is putting something else in the shack.
Namely, sap to boil into maple syrup.
Over the past few years, the supply of local sugar maples available to tap has declined. According to Jed Beach, the farm’s assistant director, there are several reasons for the drop, most of them environmental.
“Some of the trees next to the roads have been deteriorating because of the road salt,” he said. “There’s also climate change … we’ve had weaker, warmer winters, and that produces less sap, and thereby less syrup.”
Beach said the farm is willing to drive to neighboring communities (within a 30-minute drive from the farm) to collect sap, including Dover, Sherborn, Wellesley and Needham.
“We are very actively looking for maples,” he said.
The requirements — a minimum of 15 trees on a site, either on the street or within a neighborhood (along with permission); the trees have to be at least 12 inches in diameter and about 45 years old.
Those having concerns about taps and tree damage need not worry, said Beach.
“Tapping does not damage the trees’ long-term health,” he said.
Sap collection begins around mid-February, when days are above freezing and nights are below freezing, and lasts into March, depending on the weather.
The quest for maple syrup has been a New England staple since colonial times and before, when native Americans taught the craft to settlers.
“We want to preserve the art and craft of maple syruping,” said Beach, adding that the farm receives about 2,000 visitors during sugaring season alone.

Maple Magic, March 8
A part of this season will be the farm’s annual Maple Magic Day on March 8, including a pancake breakfast at nearby Memorial School from 8-11 a.m. In addition to the pancakes (topped off with the farm’s own maple syrup), there will be a folk band, agricultural demonstrations and a farm raffle. Cost is $6 for NCOF members, $8 for nonmembers, $3 for members age 3-6, and $4 for nonmembers age 3-6.

After breakfast, head over to the farm for “Maple Sugaring Past & Present” from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Learn about native American and colonial sugaring techniques, and experience how the farm sugars today. There will be lunch with hot soups, cider and homemade bread fired up in the farm’s adobe wood-fired oven. Cost is $5, $4 with the pancake breakfast.

For information on these and other farm programs (including where the farm can find sugar maples to tap), call 508-655-2204 or visit

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