By Mike Jaquays STAFF WRITER
Rome Sentinel Co.
It’s been a productive season for the Vernon-Verona-Sherrill Central School’s FFA chapter and their maple processing, as they are getting close to their 2023 goal of bottling more than 600 gallons of their sweet maple syrup, said VVS FFA Advisor and agriculture teacher Justin Ferreira. Now, VVS FFA members are preparing to once again share a look at their sweet maple syrup production process Saturday and Sunday, March 25 and 26, as they host their annual Maple Weekend at the high school, 5275 Route 31. The weather has been favorable for an extended season this year, Ferreira said. The warmth of February meant an unusually early tree tapping and sap collection even before their mid-winter break started. But then the reversal of the weather conditions now will actually make the sap run from the maple trees that much longer this year. “Now we are getting February weather in March,” Ferreira explained. “The cold is helping us extend the season and although a bit depressing, the cloudy days are, too.” VVS FFA Reporter Gianna White said Maple Weekend will feature wagon ride tours from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. that Saturday and Sunday, visiting the sugarbush near the school where sap is gathered and the sap house facility where it is boiled down into syrup. Guests can sample some of that tasty syrup during Maple Weekend at a pancake breakfast from 7:30 a.m. to noon both days in the VVS High School gym. Cost is $12, $10 for senior citizens and children under 12. Pre-schoolers are free. There will even be pancake art in different colors and designs created by “some of the best artists at VVS,” she said. The official 2023 tree trapping ceremony is at 11 a.m. Sunday with special guests expected including New York State Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets Richard Ball, state Sen. Joseph Griffo, Assemblyman Brian Miller, Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush and VVS district Superintendent Martha Group. Maple products will be available for sale, as well as other VVS school store items. There will also be a can and bottle drive from 9 a.m. to noon during Maple Weekend at the school’s Sheveron Community Center. Attendees can drop off their returnables to support both the VVS Community Rotary Club and VVS Interact Club’s service projects, including scholarships for VVS students. White encourages families to come out and enjoy the time together at Maple Weekend – maybe even finding some inspiration for the children to join the FFA themselves some day. “I like showing all of the younger kids how we make maple syrup,” White said. “We can see if they might want to do this themselves someday.” “The process is pretty interesting,” VVS FFA Sentinel Mark Hoffman added. “It really is a lot of fun.” FFA members are taught a wide range of subjects while making syrup. They learn to study weather conditions, understand the chemistry of syrup production, engage in public speaking while presenting their successes to others and develop marketing strategies in selling the syrup. They also make a bit of profit which is then used to finance FFA projects and trips. “I really get to learn a lot when I’m spending time in our sap house,” said VVS FFA chapter President Devon Conley. “I get to spend time with people I might otherwise not get to be with and learn things I might not have been able to in school.”