A Vermont Picnic

By Melissa Pasanen, "A Vermont Picnic," July/August 2008

A Meal to Celebrate Local Bounty.

In early spring, I stood in northern Vermont under a bright blue sky watching a teenager tap a sugar maple while his parents and grandparents looked on proudly. “Sugaring is just as much a part of me as the color of my hair,” the young fourth-generation sugarmaker said later over maple-crumb muffins in the farmhouse kitchen. “Every family has its own stories. For me, growing up sugaring is a big part of our story.”

Maple syrup is part of many Vermonters’ stories but, like other longstanding food traditions across North America, it is threatened by both environmental and societal factors and has been labeled “at risk” by the Renewing America’s Food Traditions (RAFT) project. Maple Syrup nation—one of 13 “foodsheds” outlined by RAFT—stretches from eastern Quebec and inland Maine to the northwest corner of Indiana, with the entire state of Vermont and most of New York State and Pennsylvania at its heart. It is named in honor of the sugar maple, which has shared its sap since native peoples first discovered the lightly sweet, clear liquid and simmered it down into syrup and sugar. Unfortunately, climate change, acid rain, creeping development and invasive species have threatened the sugar maple.

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