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The Giving Tree

The Giving TreeFor the second year in a row, Tufts partners with Groundwork Somerville tapping local trees as part of the Maple Syrup Project.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [03.22.10] If you've always looked to Vermont and Canada for pure maple syrup, you may not realize that this sweet treat can be found closer than you think.

Since mid-January members of Groundwork Somerville (GWS), an environmental nonprofit that promotes sustainable community development and revitalization, along with members of the Tufts community have been collecting maple sap for the second year in a row from six trees on Tufts' Medford/Somerville campus.

"The healthiest sugar maples in the area are located on the Tufts campus," says Tai Dinnan, the program's coordinator at GWS. "And a number of Tufts students are very involved in the process."

On March 12 and 13, GWS hosted their culminating event, bringing together volunteers, students and community members for the official boil-down, pouring the gallons of sap into an evaporator to rid it of excess water to make syrup.

Among the students involved is Ben Simons (G'12), one of the daily sap collectors for this year's program and a Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning graduate student.

"The haul really fluctuates depending on the temperature," says Simons. "In order for sap to flow it has to be below freezing at night and above freezing in the morning, so on a normal 35 to 40 degree day, if it's sunny, we will get between five and 10 gallons."

The gallons are then brought to Somerville's Winter Hill Community School for refrigeration. Many volunteers have cars, but for those like Simons who don't have access to a vehicle, GWS has a solution-a bike with a retro-fitted trailer made to hold four gallon-sized buckets of sap.

"That's one thing you get working with Groundwork-you get a lot of looks for various things, like riding around with a bike cart collecting syrup," Simons says. "But it's cool because people are curious and then you get to explain what you're doing."

Coinciding with the sap collection, GWS also coordinates a four-week educational program for second graders in five Somerville schools, with half of the educators being Tufts students.

"We try to get the kids worked up about science in the best possible way," says Ryan Clapp (A'12). "We keep track of the temperatures and talk about what the best temperatures are for sap to flow. I haven't had the chance to be in front of a classroom in a while so it has been a great opportunity for me."

According to Dinnan, it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. Of the few gallons of syrup produced from the two-day boil-down, some is sampled at the time or given to volunteers, while the rest is packaged in maple leaf-shaped bottles to be sold at the Union Square farmers' market.

"I really like the actual process of tapping trees and then collecting the syrup-it's really satisfying," Simons says. "But also the interest that the community has shown has been great. It seems like people are really rallying around it."

Story by Kaitlin Provencher, Web Communications.
Slideshow by Joanie Tobin, University Photography.


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