Earlier in March, kids enrolled in the Oneida Indian Nation’s Youth Ambassadors Program and After School Program enjoyed a quick field trip up the road to Wáhta̲ʼ Maple Farm to learn how to tap a maple tree with Maple Production Manager, Brendan Schuler. The unseasonably warm day meant it would be a good day to tap, which the kids got to see firsthand.

Brendan began his presentation asking the kids what they knew about tapping maple trees. They responded with the correct time of year to start tapping (late winter/early spring) and that the sap is used to make maple syrup. But they were surprised to learn the sap released from the tree is actually a tasty sugar water – and that the syrup comes from evaporating the water out of it through constant boiling.

At Wáhta̲ʼ Maple Farm, the process is made even more efficient with the use of reverse osmosis. The evaporation process, utilizing reverse osmosis and the evaporator, reduces the ratio of sap needed to produce a gallon of syrup from around 50 gallons to around five gallons, which not only increases efficiency but ensures we are getting the most out of the sap we collect.

All of the processes employed by Wáhta̲ʼ Maple Farm are centered on sustainability. Our tree-tapping process minimally impacts maple trees so they can maintain healthy growth. The tap holes are much smaller than what they would have been using traditional tapping practices, which allow the trees to heal much quicker.

After his introduction, Brendan walked the group over to one of the maples. Language Instructor Chelsea Jocko (Wolf Clan) gave thanks for the many gifts of the maple in the Onyota’a:ká: language. The maple tree – the leader among all trees because it awakens first – provides us with its sugar, faithfully fulfilling its annual promise.

Brendan then used an electric drill with a specific maple bit to tap the tree. Almost instantly, the sap started rushing out. He showed the kids how he connects a tube to the tree, which is the main process the maple farm uses to collect the sap.

The kids even got a look inside of the new sap house where all of the lines from the sugar bush meet before being pumped underneath Route 46 to the production facility. In the hour-long demonstration, everybody got to see how the sap gets from the trees atop Peterboro Road down to Territory Road.

Located entirely on Oneida Indian Nation homelands, Wáhta̲ʼ Maple Farm maintains the highest standards in sustainability and forest management to ensure our forest and lands stay healthy. Sustainability remains a cornerstone of Oneida tradition and is paramount in every decision we make. With Wáhta̲ʼ Maple Farm, the Nation’s youth will now be able to see the maple tree tapping process every year.