Sunny skies and temperature swings are an indication that it’s maple syrup season in Central New York. Stone Quarry Hill Art Park has once again partnered with the Agricultural Science program at Cazenovia High School to tap the maple trees on the Art Park’s property. Mandi Millen leads the Agricultural Science program and Cazenovia Aggies FFA Chapter, formally known as the Future Farmers of America.
Millan has been working on this project with her students all year. “This program is an opportunity for students to get hands-on experience,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for the students to be a part of the whole process, from the hard work to the sweet reward.”
In the fall, the students measure trees, calculate slope, plan how many taps they’ll need, and determine where to put up sap lines. During the winter the students create a budget and order materials. Then, as the weather starts to break in February, the students are back outside at the Art Park, tapping trees, collecting sap and boiling.
This year, the students were out on snowshoes tapping the trees; a week later, it was 60 degrees, the sap was flowing and they were producing syrup.
The program was initiated in 2016 with a grant from the Madison County Youth Bureau’s Youth Development Program. Art Park Executive Director Emily Zaengle describes the value this program adds to the Art Park and community.
“In addition to our close relationship with the Agricultural Science program at Cazenovia High School we have a class of Landscape Architecture students from SUNY ESF studying the cultural and ecological systems in the Sugar Bush,” she said.
Two of the Art Park’s artists-in-residence were also involved in the program this year. Kiki Sciullo from Providence, R.I., worked with the agricultural science students to develop a logo that would help them better market the syrup and candy they will produce. Syracuse-based artist Edward Ruchalski collaborated with the art and music teachers at Burton Street Elementary School. He led the entire third grade on a Sound Walk. Zaengle describes the impact of these collaborations.
“We’re creating completely immersive opportunities,” Zaengle said. “From learning to hear music in the dripping of sap or rustle of leaves, to designing a maple syrup label, we want students to experience the connection between art and nature.”
The Art Park hopes to continue to grow the program next year to include public workshops and shared use of the evaporator.
“This is Madison County, maple sugaring process is such a part of the visual and cultural landscape around here,” Zaengle said. “The Art Park embraces and celebrates that.”
The Art Park will be boiling Saturday, March 11 (backup date on the 18th), 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., weather depending) to provide visitors the opportunity to see the evaporator in action, and of course, there will be plenty of free samples.