This past Saturday, February 15, we had the pleasure of holding a workshop about our Bird-Friendly Maple program at NOFA-VT Children's Conference. The theme of this year's conference was interdependence. We thought our Bird-Friendly Maple program was the perfect example of how our work demonstrates the interdependence between farmers, consumers, and the forest's natural community.
Our Americorps Member, Sarah Hooghuis, and education intern, Ciara Fagan, talked to kids ages 5-12 about our 600-tap sugarbush and what a bird-friendly sugaring operation looks like. We held a relay race to help kids understand the difference between sap and syrup, had an indoor tapping demonstration with logs and, of course, tried Audubon's maple syrup!
It can be tricky to connect the dots between birds and maple syrup if you overthink it - the simple answer is trees! We asked kids to offer their ideas of what make a successful habitat for birds: food, nesting sites, and cover. Trees are critical for all three of these needs. Trees provide the habitat for insects, nuts and seeds that birds eat, the branches and cavities in which they nest and cover from weather and predators.
We brought a photo of a maple monoculture and asked the group if they had seen a sugaring operation like it before. Most answered yes, so we discussed why a monoculture makes for an unhealthy forest and therefore, unsuitable for birds. Maple monocultures may appeal to our tidy aesthetic and increase sap production over the short-term, but they are less biodiverse and more susceptible to pests and disease. In contrast, sugarbushes with structural and biological diversity will be more resilient against climate change and offer more habitat for a range of animal and plant spieces.
Often there is concern that conservation efforts minimize profits in the agricultural sector, so the NOFA Children's Conference was a great opportunity to talk to kids about how we can optimize maple sugaring production without compromising our forests and habitat for wildlife. We hope that the kids we worked with start conversations with sugarmakers they know about getting certified and look for our Bird-Friendly Maple label the next time their family buys maple syrup!
To learn more about the program you can visit our Bird-Friendly Maple page.
We sell our Golden, Amber and Dark syrup right here at the Audubon Center. Be sure to look out for our label the next time you are restocking your syrup!