Made at Chase Farm and Around the State
Mainers who are hoping they will enjoy Maine Maple Sugar Sunday on the last weekend in March may see their wish come true.
A year after the sweet rite of spring was cancelled at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, event organizers were hopeful in early February 2021 that Maine Maple Sugar Sunday would be held statewide on March 28.
Scott Dunn, owner of Dunn Family Maple in Buxton and president of the Maine Maple Producers Association, said plans were in the works to have scaled down maple sugar days at more than 100 Maine sugar houses and farms.
Scott explained the events would require everyone to wear a mask, maintain social distancing, and enjoy samples outside like a typical farmers market. One of the key differences is that attendees would not be allowed to inside maple sugar houses to see the wood-fired maple sap boilers in action. Pancake breakfasts will also not be held.
“With the way the numbers are trending right now, we have a good chance of holding Maple Sugar Sunday,” Scott said. “We have 250 members total, and 100 to 120 participating in Maple Sugar Sunday.”
Scott said a lot of Mainers welcome this annual event. It gives people a chance to get out, go to a nearby farm, and enjoy getting a fresh supply of Maine maple syrup. “We just have to hope for good weather.”
Chase Farm in Wells
Richard Chase, whose family owns and operates the Chase Farm in Wells, was not sure if they would hold the Maine Maple Sugar Weekend event they have previously staged.
Before 2020, the Chase Farm would usually see hundreds of people flock to the farm. They would get to see the maple sap boiler up close and talk with his family about the process.
As much as Richard, 60, would like to welcome people back to the farm, he is concerned with the ongoing pandemic, as are so many.
The Chase Farm store will still sell plenty of their maple syrup on their shelves beginning in mid- to late March depending on when the sap flows.
The pandemic has not stopped Richard from collecting his sap and producing maple syrup and it won’t this year, either. Richard said they tap between 500 to 600 trees. “In a good year, we will get 150 gallons from the trees or 600 quarts,” he said.
Richard uses his teams of horses, Bob and Mike or Major and King, to go out and get the gray, metal buckets placed at the bottom of each tree. Richard said he usually taps his trees at the end of February and the beginning of March. They use some tubing, but mostly old-fashioned buckets. The sap always flows best when you have cool nights and mild days.
Throughout the pandemic, the Chase Farm store on Route 109 remained open. Family members and store employees required their customers to wear masks, posted hand-sanitizer stations, and had social distancing measures in place. Last spring when some grocery items like a dozen eggs were hard to come by, Chase Farm store staff would take orders and set some aside for their customers. The store has genuine New England Yankee warmth and charm, as patrons purchase homemade cider doughnuts and an assortment of pies and breads.
The farm has been in existence since 1774, and today Richard Chase, Jr., carries on a rich agricultural tradition by planting plenty of corn, potatoes, and vegetables in the spring, with a bountiful harvest in late summer and fall. The farm store also sells plenty of organic beef, pork, and poultry raised on the farm along with plenty of fresh baked goods.
According to the Chase Farms’ website, the Chase family are direct descendants of Wells’ first settler, Edmund Littlefield. The area known as Merrifield Ridge was first tilled by Samuel, Edmund’s great-grandson. Many generations of Littlefield-Chases have resided here since then. It is quite common to see the Chase family use their draft horses to do some of the work on the farm, which allows visitors to see a working Maine farm in action.
Maine’s Maple Sugar Producers
Without the benefit of a showcase event like Maine Maple Sugar Weekend, maple syrup producers will continue to sell their sweet wares at their farm stores and via e-commerce. The good news is that demand remains strong.
At his farm in Buxton, Scott said they usually tap about 1,500 trees and produce about 350 gallons of syrup each year. Like his fellow maple producers, Scott lost a lot of revenue when the pandemic shut down the 2020 Maine Maple Sugar Sunday.
The event often accounts for 50 percent of Maine maple producers’ sales. Fortunately, Maine maple syrup is still available year-round. Maple syrup is also an important product for Maine farmers. According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, Maine was the nation’s third-largest maple syrup producer in 2019 with its 580,000 gallons. Vermont was number one with 2.07 million gallons and New York was second with 820,000 gallons.
Scott believes Mainers love this annual March because it gives them a chance to experience a piece of their agricultural heritage and New England culture.
“You can go out and actually see how your food is being made,” Scott said. Maple syrup is also a pure, organic treat.
“All we do is remove the water and caramelize the sugars,” Scott said.
Just being able to get outdoors on a mild, sunny day is treat in and of itself, he said.
“It has everything you are looking for after being cooped up in the house all winter.”
Scott added the best thing for Mainers to do—to find out which Maine maple producers will hold a Maine Maple Sunday event this year—is to visit www.mainemapleproducers.com.