Maples are some of our region’s most beloved trees. Living to 200 years or more, they line scenic dirt roads and follow stonewalls; they produce brilliant autumn color across our hills and valleys; and in the last days of winter, they provide sweetness to get us through mud season. Who could not be cheered by the sweet smell of steam billowing from a sugarhouse?
Vermont’s soils are particularly well-suited to growing maples. The state is the top producer of maple syrup nationally (New Hampshire is 6th). And Orange County is the “planetary epicenter’ of sugar maples.” That’s according to Mike Snyder, former Commissioner of Vermont Forests, Parks, and Recreation, who explained in a podcast interview (Happy Vermont, September 2022) that the geology of the Waits River drives much of the ecology there.
Sugarbushes help keep our forests intact. They sequester carbon and provide habitat for birds, mammals, amphibians and insects. Maple sap is mostly clear water, traveling through large wood pores that connect with the trees’ roots. The 2% sugar, together with the minerals, amino acids and other chemical compounds in the wood and soil, create the complex and unpredictable flavors of maple syrup – actually ninety-one unique flavors, according to the Canadian Department of Agriculture.
The future of maples, and maple sugaring, and the ecology of sugarbushes is threatened by climate change. We depend on maples and they depend on us! UVLT is grateful to the Upper Valley sugar-makers who steward land they’ve conserved. Celebrate this season by visiting a sugarhouse and saying thank you! Sugaring on conserved land includes:
Beaver Pond Farm, Newport
Brackett Brook Farm, Orford
Cobb Hill Farm and CoHousing, Hartland
Peter Harrington, Pomfret (leases conserved sugarbush)
O’Connell Farm, Corinth
Ridgeline Farm, Pomfret (leases two conserved sugarbushes)
Richardson Farm, Hartland
Sunrise Farm, Hartford
Taylor Brothers Farm, Plainfield
Tillinghast Maple Syrup, Thetford (uses conserved sugarbushes in Thetford and Strafford)
Wood Farm & Cider Mill, Weathersfield