Written for The Argo by Matthew Schreiber
Professor of Mathematics and Maple Project Coordinator Dr. Judith Vogel began her success story of expanding forty maple trees into sap. Her family started the project on their farm with only 10 trees and expanded their success from there. After much dedication, Dr. Vogel then brought the project to Stockton, where it is now known as the Sugar Shack. The Sugar Shack has now expanded to more than four counties in New Jersey and one in Philadelphia. The research is intended to determine if red maples can grow together with white cedar trees.
The maple syrup sap produced from the four hundred maple trees on campus allows Sugar Shack to continue its business. The location is perfect not only because of the large population of maple trees but also due to the administration at Stockton which allowed Dr. V to conduct her research.
“We are bigger than our majors. Stockton is a unique place that supports the idea of lifelong learning and curiosity. They not only allow me to do this, but they also encourage me to do so,” says Vogel.
It may seem like a leap for a professor of mathematics to start a project primarily based on agriculture, but not for Vogel. It is Vogel’s life of curiosity that has made the Sugar Shack a reality. To produce maple syrup, a hole is drilled into the maple tree and a spile is hammered into the hole with a bucket to catch the sap that drips out – this process is referred to as tapping. After the bucket is filled with gallons of sap, it is brought to an evaporator heated to two hundred and nineteen degrees in the sugar shack, where all of the water is separated from the sap. That sap is then concentrated into maple syrup. It takes forty-four gallons of sap to produce one gallon.
The weather conditions must be right as well, with cold winter nights and warm temperatures during the day. This is a process called freeze-thaw and it makes for the perfect weather combination. The steps involve asking questions to see why things are true and create an environment that works. The syrup is collected at the end of winter and throughout the beginning of spring.
The tradition of using maple tree sap to produce maple syrup is a tradition that has been practiced for hundreds of years, originating from pre-colonial Native American practices. It is a tradition that Vogel hopes to keep alive for as long as she can. The team that put it altogether consists of individuals who have expertise in forestry, economics, biodiversity, and soil science. Those who are involved in the project include Forester Dr. Matt Olson, Economist Dr. Mariam Majd, Soil scientist Dr. Jessica Hallagan, and Dean of Education Dr. Claudine Keenan.
Vogel encourages students to engage with the project as much as possible. There are many opportunities like internships, and volunteer work that anyone can be a part of. More information can be found on the project by following them on Instagram at @stocktonmapleproject. To get involved, contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org, and to read up on the project’s success story, visit www.Stockton.edu/maple.