The Gleaner
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Sugaring off: A last hurrah for winter and a beacon of spring

The first week of March is always a time to celebrate — a break from school for overworked teachers and their students, vacations down south for those needing an escape, and a final opportunity for those looking to get in a last blast of winter fun on the slopes. You can literally smell the start of spring in the air, even as threats of one last snowstorm try to mask it.
The end of February also tends to mark the start of the tastiest two months in the Valley as the maple sap starts to flow and sugaring-off season begins.
In fact, the official maple-tapping ceremony by the Producteurs et productrices acéricoles du Québec to kick off the sweetest time of the year took place on Feb. 18 at the sugar bush in Quebec City’s Bois-de-Coulonge Park. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Joint Plan for Maple Production, which regulates the production and marketing of maple products in Quebec. While not universally loved, the Joint Plan is credited by many with creating a stable industry that has allowed for agricultural regions across the province, including our own, to develop around maple sugar. There are no less than eight sugar shacks in the Valley, from traditional to gourmet, depending on your palate. All are delicious. And issues with the CPTAQ aside, our local cabanes and syrup producers are working to promote and expand this once-ancillary product into its own agricultural and economic sector for the area. With over 11,300 producers across the province, the industry creates 10,000 full-time jobs and $600 million for the Quebec economy.
The sweet liquid gold is also a wonderful thing to slip into a suitcase for a little taste of home while escaping those cold nights (even though they’re essential for a good run of sap) to go on vacation. Syrup is also an instant energy boost, high in antioxidants, that tastes great while riding the chair lifts on the slopes. In short, however you plan to celebrate March break, be sure to add a little sweetness to the experience and toast the coming spring. Sarah Rennie

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