By MADELINE CLARK
Milton Elementary school (MES) students donned their warmest jackets, mittens and caps to clamber up a brisk, snowy Georgia Mountain and celebrate the governor’s annual tree-tapping event on Friday.
The sun shone down on kids, state officials and maple enthusiasts alike as gov. Phil Scott and special guest Sonny Perdue, the United States Secretary of Agriculture, drilled into a mighty maple.
Following the tree-tapping students sought shelter in the warmth of Georgia Mountain Maples, where they dined on all things sweet and syrupy.
“We were really excited to have the opportunity to be invited to come out here,” MES farm-to-table coordinator Keely Agan said.
Agan has led MES second graders in a sugar on snow demonstration for
the past three years, but said this event was a wonderful way to show students Vermont culture and how the farm-to-school program works. Georgia Mountain Maples has partnered as a vendor with the Milton Town School District food service program in years past, Agan said.
For second grade teacher Hillary Schmid, it was an opportunity to show students how school curriculum applies to the outside world. Schmid has taught her pupils about the maple sugaring process and the science of substances changing states. She even prepared students to meet Scott and Perdue, showing them photos of the officials and explaining their occupations, prior to heading up the mountain.
“They knew that there were important people [at the event],” she said. “They were super excited to come and they knew it was something really special.”
Excited, indeed. Piper Drown, 8, was happy to attend the event, although she “[hadn’t] even eaten the pancake yet.” It was her first time watching a tree-tapping, she said.
Matthew Shedd, 7, said it felt “good” to be invited to the tree-tapping event. He’d seen trees tapped before but was excited to meet the governor. Plus, Shedd said, he likes maple syrup.
“Maple syrup and tapping is such a common part of life here in Vermont that a lot of [the students] are kind of just like, ‘yeah, that’s what happens, that’s where maple comes from,’” Agan said. “It’s really cool to kind of show off those chops.”
During the meal, officials presented MES with two books: “John Deere, That’s Who” and “Sleep Tight Farm.” The books were meant to commemorate the agricultural spirit of the day.
“Sugaring is such a big part of the Vermont landscape,” Schmid said. “It’s nice to be able to celebrate it.”