Maple sugar season commences with Royalston event

  • Visitors mingle outside the Sweet Water Sugarhouse in Royalston just prior to last Friday’s reading of a proclamation from Gov. Charlie Baker declaring March to be Maple Month in Massachusetts. Staff Photo/Greg Vine

  • Ashley Randle, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Agricultural Resources, is assisted by Sweet Water Sugarhouse owner Tom Leray as she taps the official “first tree of the season” to get Maple Month under way. Staff Photo/Greg Vine

  • Steam escapes from the chimney at the Sweet Water Sugarhouse in Royalston shortly after firing up the evaporator. Staff Photo/Greg Vine

  • Massachusetts Maple Producers Association Coordinator Winton Pitcoff, association president Howard Boyden, deputy state commissioner of agricultural resources Ashley Randle, Sweet Water Sugarhouse owner Tom Leray and Leray’s son, Ben, flank the oficial “first tree of the season” as Maple Month gets under way. Staff Photo/Greg Vine

  • Ashley Randle, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Agricultural Resources (foreground) reads Gov. Charlie Baker's proclamation declaring March to be Maple Month in the commonwealth. Staff Photo/Greg Vine

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 3/8/2021 1:16:12 PM
Modified: 3/10/2021 5:56:49 PM

ROYALSTON — In case you missed it, Maple Month in Massachusetts is now officially under way.

At an event last Friday at the Sweet Water Sugarhouse in Royalston, Ashley Randle, Deputy Commissioner with the state Department of Agricultural Resources, tapped the official “first tree of the season.” During her visit, Randle read a statement from Gov. Charlie Baker proclaiming March to be Maple Month in the Commonwealth. Sweet Water is owned and operated by the Leray family.

Prior to reading the proclamation, Randle visited the Leray’s sugarhouse where she got a look at a new evaporator and reverse osmosis technology.

“This is one of our favorite events of the year,” said Randle. “If you recall, last year I remember being at our last in-person event on March 6, before everything changed for all of us. And certainly, with this being our first ag crop of the season, it impacted our maple producers first in the ag community.

“So, we’re hopeful for a good season this year. I know the sap has started, and I’m hopeful that we have a good long season. I know Maple Weekend will again look different this year, but certainly at the department, we’ll continue to work with the Mass. Maple Producers Association in promoting all of our producers in these coming weeks.”

Randle pointed out that there are over 300 maple producers in the state who produce over 70,000 gallons of maple products and generate over $5 million in the farm economy.

“Even more than that,” she continued, “our maple producers are stewards of the land and tend over 15,000 acres of forest land across the state, helping with our preservation of land and maintaining that open space.”

She also noted that the Department of Agriculture supports maple producers with its Ag Energy Grant program.

“The Leray family has been one of our recipients — in 2019, I believe — for the evaporator that we got to see today and the reverse osmosis equipment. Those grants typically fund high efficiency in energy evaporators and the reverse osmosis equipment. We’ve awarded over $315,000 through that program. So, I continue to encourage our producers to take advantage of that grant.”

According to a statement from the Department of Agriculture, the maple season will be marked by Maple Weekend, March 20-21. At that time, sugarhouses throughout the Commonwealth will be open to visitors interested in seeing maple syrup being made, learning about the process and also the history of maple production, and, of course, sampling and purchasing the state’s sweetest crop.

A list of participating sugarhouses can be found at www.massmaple.org.

According to the statement, all participating sugarhouses will be following social distancing and masking guidelines, and will expect visitors to do the same.

Sweet Water Sugarhouse is located at 56 Brown Road in Royalston. For information or directions, call 978-249-3464. https://www.loc8nearme.com/massachusetts/royalston/56-brown-rd/6125840/

While not of the biggest syrup producers in the state, Debra Leray said Sweet Water does produce enough to supply several local retailers: Royalston Country Store in South Royalson, Not Just Produced and One Stop Plaza, both in Winchendon, Bates Crafters Gallery in Orange, and Lanni Orchards in  Lunenburg.

Greg Vine can be reached a t gvineadn@gmail.com.


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