The cart it was pulling was filled with happy children, excited to be going for a ride. (As I mentioned, we hadn't had coffee yet - and Mr. ValleyWriter can be a little grumpy pre-coffee - so I didn't dare ask him if I could go for a ride....)
As you can see from the sign above, it takes about 40 gallons of sap to produce just 1 gallon of maple syrup. It's a very time and labor intensive process, which explains the higher price tag for real maple syrup vs. "pancake syrup." (But trust me, one taste of this liquid gold and you'll never go back to the fake stuff.)
They had a video set up explaining the sugaring process from start to finish, as well as samples of some freshly made Grade A syrup (the lightest syrup that's made at the start of the season). It was sweet and light and delicious, though I must admit I prefer the Grade B syrup that gets made at the end of the season. It's a darker, heartier syrup with more maple flavor. It's often recommended for cooking and baking (a general substitute for sugar in baking is 3/4 c. maple syrup plus 1/4 tsp. baking soda, minus 3 Tbsp. of liquid in the recipe). But I think it's also wonderful on pancakes, waffles, etc. The intense maple flavor just can't be beat.
Then it was on our way to find our own breakfast. Next time, I'd like to try out the breakfast here, but I think our best bet would be to come right at 7am when they open (that might be a tough sell). If you're in the area - check it out. It's always neat to see where your food comes from - and the North Hadley Sugar Shack makes it a fun outing for all.