Gray's Sugarhouse  
           Ashfield, MA     413-625-6559

History of...

Gray's Sugarhouse

The Gray Family has been producing Pure Maple Syrup on this farm (Beaver Meadow Farm) since 1866.  William H. Gray built the original sugarhouse that is still standing just down the road from the farm house, up on the bank.  In 1934, brothers Frank and Charles Gray built the currently used sugarhouse to replace the older structure, and it was used by Charles Gray to make syrup until 1960.  In 1961, William F. “Willie” Gray replaced the original wood-fired burner with an oil-fired burner (in use today) and began operating the sugarhouse.  In response to weekend visitors to the sugarhouse, the family started offering Sugar-On-Snow as a way to sample the freshly made syrup.  Gradually, additional menu items were offered and the restaurant was born. Initially, the restaurant was an extension of the old woodshed and the original size of the building can be recognized by observing the posts within the old dining area. Over the years, additions have been made to the building adding more tables and increased space to bring the building to its present size.

At one time, an additional wood fired evaporator was added to the sugarhouse due to the high volume of maple sap that was being gathered to be boiled down into maple syrup. This 2nd evaporator has been removed due to the installation of a reverse osmosis machine that cuts the required boiling time in half.

In 2003 the sugarhouse restaurant closed and the family now concentrates on selling the syrup and derived maple products at the farm and via direct mail.

The Gray's Sugarhouse currently produces 400 gallons of syrup annually on average from 1,800 taps, two thirds of which are on a plastic pipeline network connected directly to the sugarhouse with the other one third collected in buckets.

Maple Sugaring History in New England

Maple sugaring has been taking place in New England long before the first colonists arrived. The settlers learned sugaring from the Indians, who collected sap in hollowed-out logs and steamed away the water by dropping in hot stones. The sugar maple tree is a sturdy native of the northeastern United States and grows abundantly in New England. Today, much care is taken to produce maple syrup of uniform quality and superlative flavor. Gathering and tapping operations recognize the need to preserve the delicate balance of the sugar orchard. Properly cared for sugar maples can be tapped at 40 years of age and will yield sap for 100 years or more. The modern evaporator, with its wood or oil fire, helps the producer control the quality of the product. Syrup is checked for density, color and taste before it is graded to Federal standards and sold.

For a detailed Maple History visit the Massachusetts Maple Producer's Association website (MMPA).

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