2020 MS Farm Sprouts – Week #1 Wednesday PM

We’re kicking off Farm Sprouts one week late on account of a snowstorm, meaning the full month of March is now dedicated to the maple sugaring season! What began years ago with a handful of dedicated volunteers and a makeshift shack that has now become a full maple sugaring operation with a whole crew of amazing volunteers, education programs, a public event, and gallons of fresh maple syrup. Farm Sprouts were welcomed as a part of this sweet community and will be contributing in countless ways, including doing the very authentic work of sap collection, the very task everyone is thinking about at the farm this time of year!

Upon arrival, Farm Sprouts signed in and voted for beech or maple trees. Tree identification is an important and valuable skill, especially as sugar workers. Today we worked to develop our science and engineering practices in a number of ways, by sharing our previous experiences either with maple sugaring or in the forest, making observations to notice patterns, and by collecting and recording those observations. Each week, we will be growing in our understanding of life’s cycles and the earth’s systems, including local weather conditions and patterns over time. We’ll note the temperature, conditions, and whether or not the sap is flowing. We wonder what makes the sap flow? How do we tap a sugar maple tree? So that we don’t harm it? Why do we only collect sap in the spring to make maple syrup? So many questions to investigate! Outdoor learning and engaging in really meaningful, authentic work can provide opportunities for BIG learning! Our big question for the season is: How does sugar maple sap become maple syrup for pancakes? During our last week, we’ll celebrate our hard work and effort (and all the fun we had together) with a much anticipated pancake feast with fresh maple syrup.

Compared to last week, we definitely felt a shift in the weather as Michiganders. Farm Sprouts noted several signs of spring, including bird songs, melting snow, warmer temperatures, and sprouts! In the sugar bush, we toured the sugar shack, enjoyed a popcorn and maple syrup snack (a Farm Sprouts tradition), identified sugar maple and beech trees (the two dominant species in our Tollgate forest), chose a sugar maple to tap, and explored the forest. Inside the shack, we enjoyed the steamy feel of the shack, the sweet smells, and amazing science and engineering of the evaporator at work, boiling the clear sap from the trees into the sticky, amber-colored syrup we love so much. We got to know the trees with all of our bodies, giving them hugs and cheek rubs to get to know the feel of the bark. We could feel the warmth from the sun on the trees and located beech and maple leaves at our feet.

On our journey to and from the sugar bush and into the barns, we visited our animals, including our lambs, and stopped by our greenhouse, where our Sustainable Agriculture team has already begun work in preparation for the growing season and their incredible C.S.A. program. Onions are sprouting and Ms. Darby had kindly started us some pea shoots for our snack on our third week. We love our collaboration with our farmers and that the farm is already coming to life in early March!

We closed with our Farm Sprouts goodbye. We look forward to seeing you all on the farm next week!

“There is always an adventure waiting in the woods.” – Katelyn S. Bolds

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