ORMOND – What a sweet way to learn.
Last week, South Nation Conservation officially relaunched its Maple Syrup Education Program at Ormond’s Oschmann Forest.
It’s a return from hibernation for the learning experience, which for years operated out of the Sand Road Maple Farm, co-owned by the conservation authority’s general manager, Angela Coleman.
Donated in 2017 by George Oschmann, to serve a lasting legacy to his late wife, Gertrude, the 18-acre forest features a woodlot that was actively managed for maple syrup production for five decades.
Upwards of $20,000 in funding from the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry and another $18,000 from TD Bank helped get the property back in working order, while the Township of North Dundas chipped in with the purchase of a neighbour acreage that now serves as the forest’s parking lot.
Throughout the grounds, groomed trails are adorned with interpretive signs and maple sap collection infrastructure, all of it providing area students a chance to learn a little bit more about the process.
Forest ecology and First Nations natural heritage also factor heavily in the teaching.
“It’s a great feeling to finally see students connecting with the local environment here,” John Mesman, the authority’s communications lead, said. “We’ve worked extremely hard over the past year to fundraise for the new program, and work on improvements to render this forest fit for sap extraction, education, and recreation.”
While no boiling is taking place at this time, the sap collected is being sold off to other area providers at whole sale pricing.
“The Oschmann land offers tremendous potential for engagement,” Bill Smirle, the authority’s board chair, said. “Protecting and enhancing local forests are not only beneficial for students, but also for the communities that rely on our forests.”