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Maple Syrup Mayhem!

By: Saph Klearman

The past year has left me feeling lost and a bit disconnected be of ski-territory in Colorado, Ohio - with its corn and soybeans - left me feeling ever more distant from nature. It’s easy to forget that where we are has depth; that the space we are occupying has been so before, that there is history, that there are traditions. Remembering our roots, and discovering ways to be more connected with where we are, what the land has truly seen, has been a way for me to fall back in love with the world.

In the 2021 spring semester, the Green EDGE Fund funded Raavi Asdar’s and David Dorsey's Maple Syrup Ecological Learning Center. Located approximately five minutes away from Tappan Square at Shagbark Haven LLC, the Center is an amazing opportunity to engage with our local environment and community in an exciting, sustainable,and new way that has been previously untapped.

“Maple Syrup production has a long history in our sliver of Ohio,” say Asdar and Dorsey. Native American communities who tapped maple trees, collected the sap in Birch baskets, and boiled it down into a syrup or sugar, taught the practice to English and French colonists during the 16th and 17th centuries. But in 1800, in abolitionist enclaves (like Oberlin), maple syrup production gained a deeper political meaning. Syrup “was seen as an ethical alternative to the sugar plantations of the South, which relied on enslaved labor.”

Taking from Oberlin’s motto of Learning and Labor, Asdar and Dorsey hope that their “sugar shack” will “keep this local history alive while also inculcating students and community members with a direct and sustained connection to the land and local production”. The Center provides an accessible opportunity for all members of the college and town to partake in and learn about the age-old practice of sugaring right in our own backyard.

During tumultuous times, an opportunity to keep our local history alive, to connect to fellow students and town residents, and to increase sustainability efforts, is not one to pass upon. By teaching about the “indigenous roots of this practice” and demonstrating sugaring and sustainable wood harvesting on a small scale, our community will be able to gain a better understanding of the methods of sustainable land stewardship at all ages.

While sugaring is a three-month process, the other nine months of the year will transform the space into an instruction area with “on-site vegetable/fruit care and preservation; soil regeneration; composting principles, mushroom foraging, perennial share and care; and an annual seed swap”. The learning center clearly represents the GEF’s efforts to include more educational-based projects in both our college and community spheres, while focusing on our mission and definition of sustainability.



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