Having grown up in New England amidst Sugar Maples, and later putting down roots in Oregon, I was enchanted to learn about making syrup out West from native Bigleaf Maple trees. When I produced my first Bigleaf syrup in the winter of 2018, I was teaching 4th & 5th grade at Arbor School and had a trusty tribe of students as my assistants. We tapped 12 trees and watched them drip for a few weeks, storing tiny quantities of sap in freezer jars. In early February the sap started running in earnest, so we announced at a school assembly that it was sugaring time and that we would be outside at recess, boiling off. We answered the expected questions of when and where, for how long, and how much. Then a final hand pointed urgently upward—a 3rd grader, who asked crucially and somewhat startlingly, "Why are you doing this?" At the time I laughed and replied simply, "Because it’s thrilling and delicious." I’ve been refining my answer ever since, always sugaring with a sense of awe.
After a few years of research about Bigleaf sugaring, I knew I wanted to share my passion. I began envisioning an educational, community-oriented venture to bring maple sugaring to the Portland area. Thanks to many generous supporters, and to my fabulous founding board members, in 2020 this vision became the Oregon Maple Project, a nonprofit organization with the mission of inspiring experiential learning, community partnership, and connection to nature through local production of Bigleaf Maple syrup.
- Eliza Nelson