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Jennings Brook Farm in New Ashford is a maple producer.

Biz Briefs: March Is 'Massachusetts Maple Month'

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How sweet it is: Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday declared March as "Massachusetts Maple Month" in an effort to support the commonwealth's many maple producers and encourage Massachusetts residents to purchase locally produced maple products. To kick off Maple Month, Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) Commissioner John Lebeaux joined local and agricultural officials at Steve’s Sugar Shack in Westhampton for a ceremonial sugar maple tree tapping.

Massachusetts is home to approximately 300 maple syrup producers, including many who are open to the public throughout the sugaring season. Last year more than 77,000 gallons of maple syrup was produced and Massachusetts maple producers' sales each year contribute more than $6 million to the commonwealth's economy. The maple industry employs more than 1,000 workers and Massachusetts sugar makers steward more than 15,000 acres of woodland.

"Recognizing March as Massachusetts Maple Month is a wonderful reason to get out and visit a local sugarhouse, farm stand, farmers market or buy local shop," said state Sen. Adam G. Hinds (D-Pittsfield), Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts & Cultural Development. "Agri-tourism is a growing, vibrant and important sector of our cultural and farm-based economies. There are almost 70 locations statewide open and available that carry local maple products. This recognition supports their efforts."

The Massachusetts Maple Producers Association (MMPA) will hold its fourth annual Maple Weekend March 18 and 19, and will feature open house events at sugarhouses throughout central and western Massachusetts. Here in Berkshire County, sugarhouses can be founds at Holiday Brook Farm in Dalton; Circle J Maple Syrup in Florida; Ioka Valley Farm in Hancock; Mission:Maple at Ramblewild in Lanesborough; Mill Brook Sugarhouse in Lenox; Jennings Brook Farm in New Ashford; Caproni Family Sugarbush in North Adams; Deer Run Maples, Middleton Maples and Moose Mountain Maples in Otis; Olde Remington Farm in Savoy; Sweet Brook Farm in Williamstown; and Windsor Hill Sugar House in Windsor. Find a complete list online.


What's the buzz: Art and nature have always been intertwined at the Clark Art Institute. Now, bees are entering the picture as the Clark plans to launch an active beekeeping program on its campus to help grow the native bee population in Berkshire County. A Kickstarter campaign, which runs March 1–20, seeks to raise $8,000 for the program. More information can be found online.
Bees are quickly disappearing from the United States due to environmental changes and destruction of bee habitats. Recently seven species of bees in the United States were identified as endangered. The drastic reduction in bee populations is an increasingly serious issue for American food production. Honeybees are the primary pollinators of the world’s food and of our region’s trees, shrubs, and flowers. Without pollination, crops do not thrive.

In addition to creating a bee colony, the Clark plans to enhance its campus by planting more than 1,000 crocus bulbs to provide a critical early spring nutrition source for its new residents. As one of spring’s first flowers, the crocus is a primary pollen source for bees. The crocus bulbs were donated by Clark Trustee Dena Hardymon and her husband, Felda. The Clark BUZZ project will provide the funding needed to create and care for the bees. Local beekeeper David Thayer will assist the Clark in establishing its bee program and will supervise the growth of the colony. Bee skeps will be installed on the roof of the Manton Research Center to encourage bees to make the Clark their home. A population of at least 40,000 bees is needed to sustain the hives and encourage honey production.

Nonprofit meeting: The Massachusetts Nonprofit Network will hold its annual Berkshire region meeting on Monday, March 13, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Saint James Place at 352 Main St. in Great Barrington. This event is sponsored in part by the Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires and is open to all nonprofits.

There are a number of emerging public policy issues at the state and federal level that will have an immediate impact on Massachusetts nonprofits. These issues span across subsector, budget size, and region. It is more critical than ever that nonprofit leaders are informed, involved, and ready to advocate on behalf of their organizations and their colleagues. Berkshire nonprofits are encouraged to attend to learn about key legislative issues impacting nonprofits, share best practices for effective advocacy, and plan strategy to respond to important legislation. Register online.

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