LOWVILLE — Lowville Academy and Central School career and technical education students are working to take products from the tree to the consumer.

The school recently acquired a mobile maple lab through a donation from former LACS student Jim Mullen and Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds.

Technology and engineering students under the direction of Amy Baker designed the custom made trailer last year.

The custom built 8- by 22-foot trailer, which cost about $45,000, is part production and part sales. The front part of the unit is set up as a food truck complete with grill, sinks, food prep area, ventilation, fire suppression system and sales window. In the back is the production area, fitted with an evaporator which can be removed once sugaring season is over. Including the evaporator, more than $30,000 was spent on industrial-grade maple producing equipment.

Melvin Phelps, CTE department chair, said since the project is mainly educational, duplicate cotton candy machines and other value added equipment was purchased in order to allow more students hands-on learning to use the equipment and produce products.

Agriculture students and FFA members were tasked with gathering the sap. Neighborhood land owners agreed to allow their maple trees to be tapped. This year the students utilized 80 taps to gather sap. Mr. Phelps said anyone within walking distance of the school who is willing to have their trees tapped should contact him through the school.

Students monitor the evaporator during school hours under the direction of Mr. Phelps, who is also an agriculture teacher and the FFA adviser.

Mr. Phelps explained the raw sap is put into the tank of the evaporator. He said they use reverse osmosis to remove half of the water from the sap, thus cutting down on boiling time.

“Sap is 3% sugar and 97% water,” he said.

The sap is then heated and drawn through channels, increasing the surface area, to remove the water enough to convert to syrup. Once the syrup reaches 217 degrees, it is drawn off until the temperature regulates back down to 214.

Mr. Phelps said they use a hydrometer to measure the sugar content of the syrup.

“It’s an educational process, learning the science behind it,” he said.

Taking their turn at the evaporator, Faith J. Diddle and Taylor N. Stalker said they were new to sugaring but saw value in the process and the school program.

“I know about making syrup but never really knew all that went into it,” said Faith, a sophomore and secretary of the FFA. “We’ve heard Mr. Phelps talking about this and now it’s a reality.”

Mr. Phelps said they have been working on establishing the maple trailer for more than two years.

Faith said she plans to pursue some type of agriculture related career.

“It’s amazing this little trailer is teaching students how to run a mini-business,” said Taylor, a senior and student adviser for FFA. “We are learning at a new level.”

Taylor, who plans to become a pediatrician, can see the value in learning about how to run a business.

Once the sap becomes syrup, family and consumer science students will take over and turn it into value-added products, including sugar cakes and cotton candy.

Instructor Amy Beyer said the students are devising a menu as well as developing the product for the food truck which will attend various events such as Food Truck Friday.

Ms. Beyer said they are open to suggestions for products containing maple which could be sold through the food truck.

At the business side of the program, students under the direction of Blake Place, the business and entrepreneurship teacher, deal with the process related to starting a business. They will be filing paperwork and obtaining permits for events and set the pricing for products.

“My students get to write business plans and think about what type of value added products would be a good fit,” she said. “They analyze and look for target audiences and consider products to fit their consumers’ wants. They also will come up with the pricing for the various items. We are excited to be heading to the food truck Fridays in Lowville among a few other events.”

Technology instructor Tiffany Seymour’s students were responsible for designing the logo.

Mrs. Seymour said her students interviewed other CTE students to gain input on what should be included in the design.

This year’s logo has all the elements of Career and Technical Education — business, technology, engineering, agriculture and family consumer science — around the circular red outer border with Lowville Academy Mobile Maple Lab in inner loop with a maple leaf and the letter “L” with a sap bucket hanging off the top in the center of the logo.

According to the tech teacher, the logo will be used this year on the trailer and product packaging.

“Next year, it is our plan to have a logo design contest for students taking art and graphic design,” she said. “Students will design a new logo each year.”

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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