In every other place in the world there are four seasons-autumn, winter, spring, and summer. But in New England, there is a fifth season that falls somewhere between winter and spring.
It’s called sugarin’ season.
The maple-sugaring season is in full throttle all around New England and many can relate to this unpredictable harvest that is founded around family, tradition and hard work.
Castleton Sophomore Stacy Sullivan has been sugaring with her family in Connecticut since she was in grade school.
“It has been in the Sullivan name for over 100 years and we just have it for fun, not to make a killer profit,” said Sullivan. “My favorite part about sugaring is definitely spending hours with my family. Some of my fondest memories with my dad and grandpa can be recalled boiling and making syrup.”
Most college girls look forward to chocolates and flowers on Valentines Day, but Sullivan recalls spending every Feb. 14 with her family in Connecticut, tapping trees.
“I am three-and-half hours away from school, so I wasn’t able to make it home for the special day. But every day this February vacation was spent at the sugarhouse making up for the lost Valentine’s Day,” she said.
Sullivan isn’t the only Castleton student who gets joy out of spending hours in front of an evaporator.
“My favorite part is spending the whole day boiling with my family. We each have individual jobs, like one will feed the fire, one will bottle the syrup and put labels on, one keeps track of the syrup boiling … it’s my favorite time of year just because it brings my family together,” said junior Emily Sweeney.
Making maple syrup doesn’t just create family values, it rakes in a lot of money for New England’s economy. Vermont made 1.4 million gallons last year – the most in years.
“It’s in the millions of dollars, I know that,” said Mary Croft, secretary and treasurer of the Vermont Sugar Makers Association, about the annual economic impact maple syrup has on Vermont.
But like Sullivan and Sweeney, Croft said the family bonds that are formed around the sweet syrup are just as valuable to her. As she spoke on Monday, she said her 92-year-old father and 83-year-old mother were out in the sugar house boiling sap. It was the third day of boiling, she said.
“It’s very much a family affair,” she said, adding that her daughter has essentially grown up in and around the sugarhouse just like she did. “She was born on March 22 and growing up, that’s where she had most of her birthdays – in the sugar house.”