March is maple month, and we take our maple syrup serious in this house. After posting my Guide to Maple Sugaring a few weeks ago, I decided that we needed to check out at least one of the events in it! So, we decided to take a drive to East Hartland, Connecticut for the Maple Festival at Sweet Wind Farm!
Sweet Wind holds their annual Maple Festival on the second Saturday of March. We had decided that we would go to the event earlier in the week… and then the weather forecast came out. Saturday was predicted to be in the teens, and that did not even factor in the windchill. It was going to be COLD! We were up in the air until the morning of, and then we decided to just bundle up and do it! We were all ready to go, when we got a phone call from my in-laws, they changed their mind and wanted to come to! And I’m so glad we all went!
East Hartland is tucked in a quiet section of Connecticut, and a good drive from any major highway. We drove the back roads all the way through Suffield and Granby, which took about 40 minutes.
The sugar shack and farmstand is visible right from the road, so we had no issue finding our way.
Today’s festival was held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. They had special events and tours taking place throughout the day. We arrived just short of noon, and only poked around outside for a few minutes. It was SO cold!! We made sure everyone was bundled up and we also had our winter boots on to trek through the fresh snow!
They have a huge property, and they do not just make syrup. This is a full fledged farm with seasonal vegetables, fruits and herbs. All of which can be found in the farm store, which is open to the public during daylight hours all year long. They also have local honey. I poked around outside for a couple minutes to admire the beautiful property, but the cold was a bit much!
I did find a few trees that were tapped for sap! If you have never seen how this works, it’s pretty amazing. During the festival, they were actually demonstrating how to tap a tree. And if you have a maple on your own property and want to try to pull out some sap, they also sell the spiles! Years ago, my father in law tried to tap his own maple tree. It gave me a whole new appreciation for maple farmers. It takes a lot of trees to get a decent amount of sap!
We arrived just after the tree tapping demonstration was winding down, and so we headed inside with the group.
The sugar shack is absolutely beautiful from the outside!
Inside, you’ll find their whole maple syrup making operation, as well as all the products they have for sale. There is also a classroom area where they were holding additional demonstrations (and where they hold their year round classes and events).
Now, if you have never seen how maple syrup is made, then you’ll want to get over to the Farm during their Open House boiling days. I’ll try to explain the process to you as well.
Basically, they tap the trees to start. However, what comes out of the tree is NOT what goes on your pancakes. In fact, sap is clear and does not taste that good at all. The sap is collected either with buckets, or some farms use a vacuum system now.
Once it is collected, the sap makes it way to the evaporator, and the water content is boiled off. This creates a ton of steam and heat! The whole sugar shack was so warm because of this, and made us forget all about the frigid winds outside!
Once the syrup reaches the right temperature, it is often filtered and adjusted for grade and density (some people like dark amber, some like really light thin amber- although the maple grading system recently changed and honestly, confuses me!).
At the Sweet Winds sugar house, we got to watch the syrup run through all the tubing and into a huge dispenser, where the maple jugs were being filled. I had never seen this part of the process before! Usually, you only get to see the boiling part, so this was pretty amazing!
They had two gentlemen filling up the maple jugs, and they were cranking them out!
I even snagged a container, fresh from the tap, and it was still hot! Best syrup I’ve ever had!
They also had plenty of samples of the warm syrup, as well as their jelly, apple butter and maple cream. It was all so very good!
Since it was lunch time, we decided to get ourselves something to eat! They were serving up pancakes, sausage, and lots more! These ladies (and gentleman) were working hard to get everyone fed!
While we waited for our food, we checked out the classroom area. They were holding candy making demonstrations and syrup making lessons later in the day, but they had videos showing the whole time and they also had some coloring activities for the kids.
This one found the Curious George book right away (have I mentioned this new obsession lately? Thomas is apparently out, and George is the new thing).
Our food was ready (they were fast), my husband and father in law carried it upstairs for us, so we could sit down at a table and eat. The upstairs was set up with plenty of seating, and even a musician!
Also upstairs, it was really steamy, since that’s where the steam from the evaporator was being sent! It was also really warm up there! Such a nice change from outside!
Once we settled into a spot, we had more important things to attend to… pancakes. And they were GENEROUS with that syrup!! Wow! It was really yummy!
We hung out upstairs for a while since my boy really took a liking to the guitarist. Any excuse to bust a move for my child… The musician was Jack from Jack & his Guitar. He was really good!
They also had other performers throughout the day, including this fire act from Ravenbane’s FireCraft! He was impressive!
After we had our lunch of pancakes, we headed back downstairs and outside to the greenhouse where they had additional activities for the kids. They had popcorn, a band playing, coloring sheets and a bean toss game. It was slightly warmer in the greenhouse (versus outside) but we only spent a short time out there before heading back inside!
After a fun filled hour and a half at the festival, we decided to head home since we were approaching meltdown (a.k.a nap time). Before we headed out, of course, I had to buy a few things: maple syrup, apple butter, a maple cookie (which was awesome), and a maple lollipop for the little guy.
We also stopped for the obligatory family photos as well!
We had a really great time at this festival! I am really glad we decided to brave the cold and make the drive! And I knew it was a successful day when my husband said to me on the way home, “I could do that again next year”! That’s the sign of a really great time – when it’s approved by him!
Sweet Wind will be having open house boiling days again throughout the month- they are listed on their website, or you can follow them on Facebook. They also offer classes and special tours to classes and groups (scouts, homeschoolers, seniors, cooking classes, etc.). Or you can always stop by the farm store for a gallon, or more, of maple syrup (and it really is one of the best I have ever had) during the winter — or for some fresh produce during the summer. They are a great locally owned farm right here in Connecticut, and I love supporting local! So make a trip!
This about sums it up…
339 South Road – East Hartland, Connecticut
The farm store is open during daylight hours all year long.
Open House Boiling Days vary throughout March
The Annual Maple Festival is held every year on the second Saturday in March
See their website for an up to date schedule.
- Sugar Shack – maple syrup and other maple products for sale year round
- Produce, herbs, fruits and more are sold during the summer season
- Special events held throughout maple season: including the Maple Festival and Open House Boiling Days
- Family friendly
- Strollers can be difficult to maneuver in some areas
- When visiting during snow season, dress accordingly and wear boots
- Free parking area
- Classes and demonstrations offered, please call to inquire & schedule