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As early as the 1500s, Native Americans were taking cues from their animal neighbors and reaping the benefits of the majestic maple tree. The curious “sweet water” could be boiled down to syrup, evaporated into sugar, or used as a water substitute for cooking meats and brewing teas. As colonial Americans began learning from the native people, they quickly realized that sourcing sugar from local maple trees was a faster, cheaper, and more ethical means of supplying the colonies than the West Indian imported cane sugar of the time.
Dr. Benjamin Rush, a spearhead of this maple sugar scheme, together with Thomas Jefferson, encouraged farmers in Massachusetts, Vermont, and New York to plant orchards of maple trees just as they would apple trees. By doing so, they aimed to make waves for West Indian cane sugar farmers who relied on slavery to produce their expensive import. By the 1800s even local Almanacs were supporting the plan, “Make your own sugar, and send not to the Indies for it. Feast not on the toil, pain and misery of the wretched.”
While Rush and Jefferson’s plan did not have the full intended effect (it would take more than sugar to abolish slavery), the impact of their efforts can be seen across New England. And now, hundreds of years later, we’re celebrating the history and splendor of this sweet treat! With its small collection of Sugar Maples, Chestnut Hill Farm has tapped away and invites you to join us to taste, boil, and sip the sap as we welcome spring back. Stop by the farm on Sunday, March 19 from 1-4PM for tastings, demos, hikes, and activities for the whole family. $5 for members, $10 for nonmembers, Sign up now to reserve your (ahem, sweet!) spot.