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You’re invited: Maple Syrup Boil Down Festival

Join Groundwork Somerville on March 3rd at the Somerville Community Growing Center for the annual Somerville Maple Syrup Project Boil Down!   Community members of all ages are invited to 22 Vinal Avenue between 10am and 2pm to watch and learn as sap from local sugar maple trees is boiled down into pure maple syrup over a warm fire.  Attendees can expect to enjoy syrup-tasting, children’s music by the Animal Farm, kids’ activities, demonstrations, and much more! Waffles, syrup, hot drinks and Somerville Maple Syrup Project T-shirts will be on sale.

At 11am and 12noon, Animal Farm will be entertaining Boil Down Festival guests!   Animal Farm is a Boston-based trio of musicians and educators whose lively performances entertain and engage children ages 3 to 103! Each thirty minute show will be a colorful blend of original music, storytelling, hilarious antics and games.

Hope to see you there!

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The Boil Down Approaches

Today while sitting at my desk, I took a moment to mentally step back from the hourly coordination craziness that happens during the syruping season.  Assessing the overall progress of the Somerville Maple Syrup Project this year made me much more positive after a morning of creative crisis management.

Groundwork Interns and Staff Help Tap

Sap collection is going at full throttle despite strange winter conditions.  We filled locally available freezer storage space and are now filling up the walk-in refrigerator at the Winter Hill School.  We have volunteers committed to collecting the accumulated sap each day of the week and an intern working to manage this piece of the project.

Students act out the layers of a tree trunk

Education sessions are in their final week in 20 classrooms across the city.  They’re powered by 19 volunteer educators and a second intern, and they’ve have gone on despite an onslaught of recent sickness.  Our Maple Education intern has run two of four “Maple-y” children’s workshops at the Somerville Public Library, which are free and open to 5-9 year olds.

All permits, an added urban complication to sugar making (must have Public Event, Fire, and Temporary Food Service Permits), are in place for the Boil Down Festival.  A third intern is working on planning this time and energy intensive event and creating a manual so the project can be more easily coordinated in future years!

Want to be part of the collective energy, learning opportunities, and fun?  Here’s how you can get involved or help out:
– Families, attend the  Maple-y Workshops at the Library!
– Volunteer to help make the Boil Down Festival a success – volunteers needed March 2nd, 3rd, and the week of March 5th. Email
– Sponsor the Boil Down Festival – last year Groundwork Somerville drew over 700 people to the Growing Center for this event; do you want them to know about your business or come to your store or restaurant after the event? Email
– Print and post the Boil Down Festival Flier in your neighborhood, office, or school
– RSVP and invite your friends to the Boil Down Festival on facebook

Hope to see you on March 3rd!

Get Involved!

Volunteer Opportunities: Maple Syrup Season

I’m busy gearing up for the final celebration of the Somerville Maple Syrup Project: The Maple Syrup Boil Down Festival.  I hope everyone in the area will be able to join us at the Somerville Community Growing Center (22 Vinal Ave.) on Saturday March 5th any time between 10am and 2pm to celebrate the finale of the 2011 syruping season.  Attendess of all ages are invited to come to this free event to watch and learn as sap from local trees is boiled down into pure maple syrup over a warm fire.  If you come, you’ll have the chance to taste syrup, join in the singing of sappy songs, participate in kids’ activities and demonstrations, and more! Waffles, syrup, and T-shirts will be on sale to support the Somerville Maple Syrup Project.

Volunteers at the 2010 Maple Boil Down
Volunteers at the 2010 Maple Boil Down

The Maple Syrup Project is run on an extremely tight budget but is hugely successful thanks to the amazing support of many partners.  Some folks give time, some give money, and many businesses provide materials and services needed to make the entire project run smoothly.  Check out the list below to see if there’s anything you can do to help out.  Even joining the crowd and adding excitement and energy the day of the boil down is appreciated!

Maple-y Workshops: are better than ever! If you know young families with kids between 6-9 years old, help spread the word!  We’re hoping to boost attendance for the last workshop and build up momentum as we near the day of the Boil Down

Boil Down Preparation Work Day: February 26th, 10am-2pm, Join volunteers at the Somerville Community Growing Center and help to prepare the space for the Maple SyrupBoil Down Festival the following weekend.  This is a great opportunity to be active and outside in the early spring and volunteer in the community!  Bring work gloves if you have them. Tasks will likely include shoveling, moving the boiler, stacking wood, creating activity stations, and cleaning up some storm damage.

Activity station volunteers needed Friday March 4th from 8:30-noon or 11am-2:30.  This first day of the Maple Boil Down is devoted to field trips for second grade participants in the education component of the project.  Great for folks who like working with young elementary students and being outside.

Musicians needed for at least hour long blocks Friday March 4th from 8:30-2:30 and Saturday March 5th from 10-2.  If you’re avaliable during any of these times and would like to lead simple sappy songs with attendees of the Boil Down, we’d love your help!

Print the flier and spread the word


RSVP and invite your friends on Facebook: and “like” Groundwork Somerville while you’re there!


Bucket Washers needed AFTER the Boil Down: Volunteer to come to our office for hour long blocks the week after the boil down to wash a round of buckets and leave things in good shape for next year!

Hope to see you soon! If you’d like to help out, email or call 617-628-9988.  Thanks!

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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!

Children and Nature Get Involved! Home Gardens Musings Personal Sustainability: How-To Recipes School Gardens

As the gardens go to sleep, a new blog sprouts

Welcome to GrowingStories, a compilation of memories, observations, pictures, and stories collected by Groundwork Somerville’s Gardens Coordinator. Follow GrowingStories to see an urban community through rural eyes, to be remember what it was like to be as curious as a third grader, to learn yummy new recipes for in-season veggies, to laugh out loud, to learn about fun upcoming events and volunteer opportunities, and to consider important issues in the fields of sustainable development, education, and urban agriculture.