MONTPELIER — Ohio has a history with maple syrup.
Maureen Schell, a volunteer working at the annual Maple Syrup Education Day, said the Ohio territory featured heavily in the development of maple sugaring.
“A lot of the innovations and the original companies that produced materials were here,” she said. “Then, as farming started to take hold here, maple sugaring actually moved back east to areas where it’s hilly, it’s not as easy to farm and there were mature trees.”
Ohio is now the fifth largest maple syrup producer in the nation, Schell added, and there are many producers in Williams County.
Schell talked about this on Wednesday as part of the Maple Syrup Education Day, hosted by the Williams Soil and Water Conservation District every year.
The event brings fourth and fifth graders from schools across the county to the Williams County Fairgrounds in Montpelier, where they learn about the history and how to produce maple syrup.
They traveled between several different stations, with Schell talking about the history while others talked about tapping into trees to get the sap as well as modern and historic ways of turning the sap into syrup.
Schell provided several artifacts for the students to see and even touch, including a large copper kettle that came from Indiana.
“This is very cool for kids because it touches on environmental aspects — this whole daylong program — agriculture, on our history, it’s a very nice program,” she said. “It gives (kids) a look at an alternate way of doing things. It gives them an idea of where it comes from. Many kids today don’t know where our food comes from, they don’t know how things happen. They just go to the store and buy it.”
This event, Schell continued, covers a lot of history, looking at the evolution of creating maple products such as syrup and sugar from Native American practices to early frontier practices and even modern practices.
“There’s a lot of information involved that ties to other subjects: there’s math involved, there’s social studies involved, history, health,” she said. “It’s a really comprehensive and nice program.”
This was also the sentiment of Jeff Dick, who showed kids the more modern way of making syrup at a sugar shack that was built on the fairgrounds.
His presentation involved asking kids the boiling point of water (212 degrees Fahrenheit or 100 degrees Celsius) and then asking them the boiling point of maple syrup, which he told them was seven degrees hotter than water.
“There’s a lot of science in the production of maple syrup, so I think this program teaches them a lot about science,” Dick said. “We talk about the boiling point of water and how that changes as substances become heavier and becomes maple syrup.”
It also gets children out of the house and off their computer and other technology and gets them to learn about nature.
“It’s an important program because it teaches kids how there are many products available in nature for us just right in our own backyards,” Dick said.