Binghamton University students walking toward the East Gym may have noticed various orange buckets leaning against trees on campus in recent weeks, part of a maple syrup cultivation project led by students in Dickinson Community.
Josh DeMarree, a greenhouse assistant at BU, had the initial idea to make syrup on campus. DeMarree has experience with the cultivation process, and makes his own maple syrup at a farm in Cortland. Carl Lipo, associate dean for research and programs in Harpur College, director of the University’s environmental studies program, sustainable communities program adviser and a professor of anthropology, connected DeMarree with Kimberly Jaussi, a collegiate professor of Dickinson Community and an associate professor in the School of Management, who helped get the project underway for students through the Dickinson Town Council (DTC).
DeMarree wrote in an email that the project provides a unique experience for BU students.
”I think it is an amazing thing and thought it would be cool for students to see here on campus,” DeMarree wrote. ”I find few people know about trees [and] tree products, maple syrup being one of them.”
Jaussi said Dickinson Community’s signature theme is sustainability, and making homemade maple syrup has provided an opportunity for students to explore ways to use environmental resources on campus.
”I really want students to see the beauty of going to school in Binghamton, and the kind of cool stuff that happens here in the ’country,’ so that everybody gets a taste of what a unique set of resources we have on campus,” Jaussi said. ”I didn’t know you could make maple syrup from the trees that we walk by every day.”
Around 10 students from Dickinson Community are participating in the project, and helped insert taps into the trees in early March, allowing sap to collect in the buckets below. The boiling of the maple syrup sap is the next phase in the production process. While Jaussi and DeMarree initially wanted students to be involved with this phase of the process by boiling the sap using the fire pits on campus, safety concerns require DeMarree to take the sap to his farm in Cortland to be boiled.
According to DeMarree, it takes about 10 hours of boiling to reduce the sap to syrup, making about 50 gallons of sap into one gallon of syrup. So far, DeMarree and the students have collected about 100 gallons of sap from the trees and made nearly two gallons of syrup. Once the maple syrup is ready, Jaussi said the DTC is planning on hosting a pancake breakfast on campus for Dickinson Community students.
DeMarree wrote that he hopes he’ll be able to help again with the project next year, giving a new generation of Dickinson Community students an opportunity to learn about the environment around them.
”New York has one of the largest maple syrup production potentials,” DeMarree wrote. ”That small section of woods has about 50 to 60 trees that can be tapped. The [Nature Preserve] has hundreds. I hope this can be an ongoing tradition.”