Just beyond Lot 1, one may notice a pathway that leads to blue tubed trees and a vacuum mechanism. One of the most recent research endeavors at Stockton, the Maple Grant Project is sweeter than most. This federally-funded project started in September 2019 and has been tapping the local red maple trees in the surrounding Pinelands for their sap to make maple syrup.
The Maple Grant’s syrup and the tapping area were on display Saturday, March 6th, as they hosted their first craft themed community engagement event. The event centered around family friendly crafts using nature as the inspiration, from painting pine cones to collecting fallen tree limbs in order to turn them into candle holders or taking tours of the maple tree being tapped, the event had something to do for any and all ages.
This outdoor event was widely received by the Stockton community with a huge turnout. To ensure safety all guests were asked to wear masks, socially distance, and sign in as guests. Once everything was established, one could enter the event and complete the 4 different crafts spread out over eight table areas.
Of course, the popular feature was the refreshment stand that had the maple syrup. One could pour themselves a cup of tea, coffee, or hot cider with maple syrup cookies. The cookies, Dr. Vogel noted, were created by Chartwells especially for Maple Grant as they use the maple syrup as a main ingredient. So students keep their eyes peeled for maple syrup cookies or for the maple syrup being used as a coffee sweetener as well in the various Chartwells-run areas of the university as they are locally created products one can only find on campus.
Dr. Judith Vogel, one of the leading faculty members, explained that the central goal of the Maple Grant is to make people appreciate nature, especially through seeing the process of making maple syrup.
We all know that maple syrup is great with pancakes, but we never think about how the syrup got on our plates. All maple trees produce sap–some more than others–and thus the sugar maple tree is the favored tree when it comes to sap collection. Stockton’s team uses the red maple. By tapping into the trees, and through reverse osmosis and vacuum pumps, the Maple Grant team is able to efficiently collect maple sap from the 89 trees they have tapped so far.
The collection season normally takes place from late winter to early spring, and the sap hasa to be boiled and evaporated in order to get the standard consistency that cups from maple syrup. It actually takes 50 gallons of sap in order to produce a single gallon of maple syrup, and the overall process has barely seen a change since its inception by Native Americans.
For students who wish to learn more about the Maple Grant, they can be found on Facebook and Instagram. And with the Maple Grant hoping to expand to double or triple the amount of tree currently tapped, there is always room for student volunteers to engage in the program by contacting Dr. Aaron Stoler (email@example.com) or the Maple Grant Team (firstname.lastname@example.org).