Urban Maple Syrup

By the end of January, I begin to think jealously of other “Gardens Coordinators” or Farm Managers who are recharging in their season of rest.  Despite my title, my job is ramping up in preparation for the Somerville Maple Syrup Project.  January through March becomes almost as hectic and challenging as mid summer in the middle of a drought!  Educators must be trained and materials must be prepared so teams of these volunteers can enrich second grade classrooms across the city with multidisciplinary weekly activities.  Sap collecting buckets, spiles, and tools must be gathered and cleaned.  A sap collection schedule, also dependent on a handful of weekly volunteers, must be arranged and clear sap collection instructions must be documented.  And of course, the many partnerships – with Tufts, Somerville Food Services, back-yard tree owners, the Growing Center, teachers, principals, and companies donating to the project – must be re-kindled and confirmed.  Sometimes it feels like a big headache.

BUT, the work pays off.  The Somerville Maple Syrup Project is remarkable in its ability to reach so many different communities and groups across the city while producing a sweet and delicious local food.  We train and rely on over twenty amazing volunteers who commit weekly and together energize and power the project.  Volunteers range from undergraduate students to stay-at-home moms and from Groundwork Somerville interns to previous maple program coordinators.  High School Technology Education students help clean and maintain the boiler that they made in 2006.  Second graders at every elementary school in the Somerville Public School system get to meet cool new guest teachers and learn about their urban environment in a fun and unique way.  Passers by the intersection of Boston Ave. and College Ave. might peer curiously at the buckets hanging from trees on the sloping hill above them.  Upon closer inspection, they might learn about the project by reading the signs attached to each bucket.  Families whose children are not in participating classrooms can go to the library each Saturday at 11am in February to participate in a series of maple-y workshops.

All this energy comes together at the maple syrup Boil Down Festival, which is happening this year on the weekend of March 5th at the Somerville Community Growing Center.  Folks from across greater Boston come to this fun festival perfect for families, local foodies, tree-lovers, musicians, neighbors sick of being cooped up inside, and lovers of maple syrup.  Now who doesn’t belong in at least one of those categories?  In the densely settled city of Somerville, you can join the crowd to see local sap boiling away, turning into maple syrup as steam floats away into the March air.  Smells of waffles and syrup waft into your nose and syrupy songs energize the crowd.  If this sounds like a good time, join us as we embark on the 11th year of the Somerville Maple Syrup Project!

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