The North Hadley Sugar Shack has many things to recommend it. It is a picture-perfect farm stand in the Pioneer Valley where you can buy locally-grown fruits and vegetables at the peak of their season from summer strawberries to winter squash. When the sugaring season starts at the end of winter, the Shack hosts daily pancake breakfasts to show off the delicious maple syrup they make and sell. And until the weather gets warm, the maple cotton candy machine at the back of the store spins great clouds of edible sweetness. In the fall, count on a harvest moon festival of pumpkins, and in the weeks leading up to Christmas, this is the place to buy trees, wreaths, and gifts with a maple theme. (The Sugar Shack closes after Christmas through January.)
Starting in May, the small snack shop adjacent to the farm stand opens for business, and it is the snack shop that won our hearts, primarily for one thing: maple ice cream. This is a soft-serve ice cream only gently infused with maple flavor, and it makes one heck of a nice cone. An even better way to enjoy it is as the base for a maple-nut sundae: ice cream topped with a thick spill of pure maple syrup, whipped cream, walnuts, and a maraschino cherry. Also on the menu is a full array of hot dogs, hamburgers, and normal-flavored ice cream.
Ginny’s pies, available throughout the summer, in varieties that include peach, blueberry, and apple, are made from grown-here fruits and are farm house beauties.
Breakfast is served during maple sugaring season, February to April and also on weekends from mid-November through mid-December.