Rural Traditions Go Urban at Saturday’s Maple Syrup Boil Down

When conjuring images of where maple syrup is made, most people likely picture a pastoral setting in one of the more rural New England states with fields blanketed by snow and red barns dotting the landscape. But for the last decade or so, maple syrup has been produced right here in Somerville. And this Saturday is the annual Boil Down Festival, where the sap gets made into syrup.

The Maple Syrup Project is coordinated by Groundwork Somerville in collaboration with Friends of the Community Growing Center, Somerville Public Schools, Tufts University and volunteers from the community.

“It’s always been a community collaboration and a labor of love,” said Groundwork Somerville Coordinator Lee Dwyer. She added that a big focus of the project is taking traditionally rural New England activities and translating them to an urban environment. “We’re the only organization running an urban maple sugaring operation in the U.S.”

Boil Down Tapping Crew

This Saturday’s Boil Down Festival takes place at the Community Growing Center (22 Vinal Ave.) from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. At the event, attendees will have the opportunity to see sap that was collected from local trees on the Tufts campus boiled down into maple syrup. So far, 176 gallons of sap have been collected, which will make a handful of gallons of syrup (the general rule is 40 gallons of sap to one gallon of syrup).

The boil down is the culmination of a weeks-long project that includes teaching Somerville Public School second-graders about the history of maple syrup, a series of community workshops and sap collection by volunteers. In 2005, a group of Somerville High School students made the boiler that is still in use today and students continue to clean and maintain it each year.

“It’s really important to show that you can take these traditions of self-sufficiency and local food production and adapt them to an urban setting … plus it’s fun!” Dwyer said.

This Saturday’s boil down will feature kids’ activities, hot chocolate, waffles and more. And after all the syrup has been made, it will be available for purchase at Sherman Market, the Union Square Farmers Market (once it reopens this spring) and the Somerville Mobile Farmers Market.

Boil Down Hanging BucketsYou may also soon be able to taste the syrup in either an Ocean Ave Pop or a Union Square Donut as part of an effort on the part of Groundwork Somerville to partner with even more community organizations and businesses.

“We’re trying to expand our educational reach, trying to expand the visibility of the maple syrup project and trying to reach out and work with more local businesses,” Dwyer said.

In addition to the big boil down, Groundwork Somerville is focusing on planning its plantings for this year at its school gardens and South Street Farm sites. And Dwyer said she looks forward to a successful growing season.

“Despite the snow, it’s been a good year for sap production,” Dwyer said. “All the weather changes bring home how important the sustainability work we do is. We’re trying to do our part to green up Somerville and promote local food production.”


Maple Syrup Boil Down
Saturday, March 9, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Community Growing Center, 22 Vinal Ave.
Free and open to all!

All photos courtesy of Groundwork Somerville.

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