A Gift from the Sugar Maples

Images showing farmer attending to the sap on the maple boiler and a farmer collecting sap from a bucket on a maple tree.

Last year, because of the pandemic, our Maple Sugaring Open House in early March was the only public event we were able to hold at Gaining Ground for the entire season. This year, we had to cancel the big celebration entirely. 

Even when so much changes, though, we take heart that many things remain the same. 

It saddened us to miss an opportunity to come together to celebrate winter’s gifts with our supporters, friends, families, and neighbors at the farm, but we remain grateful for so much at the same time. Grateful that Farmers Anna, Kim, and Erin were still able to collect sap from 27 households in Concord, tapping roughly 100 trees. Grateful that through their hard work we were able to gather over 1,500 gallons of sap to boil down to 25 gallons of syrup. Grateful that come the fall we will be able to donate all of that syrup to local families experiencing food insecurity. Grateful for those trees and our neighbors who permit us to make use of their sap. And grateful for our incredible community of supporters and partners who work tirelessly with us year-round to get fresh, delicious food to folks struggling to put enough on the table. 

The full moon in February is called the Snow Moon. In some Native American cultures, it is known as the Hunger Moon, because it is the month with both the harshest weather and lowest food stores. The start of the sap flow holds great importance because it arrives when food is most needed.

Images shows a farmer jarring finished maple syrup and another farmer carrying a box of jars.

Maple syrup is now more or less a treat when we eat it, but in these strange and difficult times, even the smallest of gifts takes on added significance. 

In her essay, “Maple Sugar Moon,” ecologist and poet Robin Wall Kimmerer writes, “One half of the truth is that the earth endows us with great gifts, the other half is that the gift is not enough. The responsibility does not lie with the maples alone. The other half belongs to us; we participate in its transformation. It is our work, and our gratitude, that distills the sweetness.”

The past year has brought unimaginable change and hardship for so many among us. Food insecurity rates have only worsened and our hunger-relief work is as important as ever. But we consider it our great privilege to take on this challenge with you, our friends and supporters, by our side. This community, like the sap from the maples: a gift.