FFA students tap school forest maple trees for syrup

A central Wisconsin school is ready for the maple sap to start running.  Mark Cournoyer is the agriculture science instructor and FFA advisor at Auburndale.  “It’s early in the stages. When you tap a tree this early, you know, just as things are starting, sometimes you get the magic and sometimes it’s just a metaphorical letdown but we know that it’s coming. This week is the week, and things are going to be hopping along here.”

Mark Cournoyer

Cournoyer tells Brownfield the students and staff tap about 250 trees in the school forest and in the community, and they partner with a local producer who cooks the sap and gives the school half of the finished syrup. “Last year, we ended up with, in a COVID shutdown, the kids hauled out a thousand gallons of sap and then myself and a few volunteers hauled out another thousand gallons of sap. so we ended up with about 26 gallons (of syrup) in our half.”

And, he says that syrup is a big part of a 61-year old FFA fundraising tradition, their annual pancake feed. “Between the syrup, the sausage, and the potatoes, the cheese, all of those things that go into there is just a really huge part of our pride of putting a very local potato pancake feed on. That helps come back and support the kids and all of their endeavors through FFA activities.”

Because of COVID-19 precautions, this year’s pancake feed will be drive-through service only on Sunday, March 21st from 9:00 am until 2:00 pm.

USDA estimates Wisconsin’s 2020 maple syrup production was 265-thousand gallons using about 270-thousand taps.  Production was down five-thousand gallons from 2019.  Wisconsin ranks fourth in production behind Vermont, New York, and Maine.

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