Elwood Riley, a fourth grade student from Waupaca, is the statewide winner of the Ag in the Classroom essay contest. Wisconsin fourth and fifth graders were asked to write a 100 to 300-word essay with the theme, “Tell us about maple syrup in Wisconsin.”
Elwood is the son of Tom and Kari Riley. Linda Easland is his fourth grade teacher at the Waupaca Learning Center.
A total of 3,027 Wisconsin students wrote essays for the competition sponsored by the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Foundation, Insight FS and We Energies.
The finalist from each of Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s nine districts across the state will receive a certificate, educational resources for their teacher and a classroom presentation about Wisconsin agriculture. This year’s finalists include:
Chloe Kelm, Trinity Lutheran-Freistadt, Mequon, Ozaukee County (District 1)
Josie Ebert, St. Matthew’s Lutheran Northside, Iron Ridge, Dodge County (District 2)
Cheyenne Johnson, Jefferson Elementary, Richland Center, Richland County (District 3)
Bennett Kohlhepp, Manz Elementary, Eau Claire, Eau Claire County (District 4)
Brianna Buechner, Tri-County, Plainfield, Waushara County (District 5)
Christopher Gallego, Sheridan Elementary School, Sheboygan, Sheboygan County (District 6)
Elwood Riley, Waupaca Learning Center, Waupaca, Waupaca County (District 7)
Marcus Huehnerfuss, Edgar Elementary, Edgar, Marathon County (District 8)
Lauren Garnett, Elk Mound Middle School, Elk Mound, Dunn County (District 9)
The Winning Essay:
By Elwood Riley, Waupaca Learning Center
Do you know a food product that’s hidden in the woods? When it’s cooked down you often eat it in the morning. It is maple syrup! In our family it’s a family tradition. Every spring we go to my grandparent’s farm to tap maple trees. Everyone helps, my cousins, siblings, aunts and uncles too!
We start to tap sap when it’s three weeks before spring. Snow is still on the ground. First we look for 10-inch or larger maple trees. We drill the hole with an electric drill 2-inches deep. We insert the spile into the hole, hand the bucket on the hook, and put on the lid. We tap about 266 maple trees, 800 spiles. Then we wait until the nights are below freezing and the days are mild and sunny. We use a tractor to pull a wagon and us through the woods to collect sap. The wagon has a covered stock tank with a hole on top and screen to filter the sap from bark, moths and mosquitos; so you won’t eat them. Once the stock tank is full, we dump it into holding tanks at the sugar shack. Everyone helps collect sap because we need to carry and empty many 5-gallon buckets. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.
In the sugar shack we have an evaporator. The sap flows in and boils down to maple syrup under a very hot wood fire. When the sap reaches 219̊F we draw off and filter the hot syrup. We blend all the sample season syrup and bottle the syrup in new Mason jars. We label it Eisentraut Farms Pure Maple Syrup. The year our family made 70 gallons of maple syrup. All that syrup was hidden in the woods. SWEET!!!
Farm Bureau’s Ag in the Classroom program provides teachers and K-12 students with an understanding of how their food is produced. The program seeks to work within existing curricula to provide basic information on our nation’s largest industry: agriculture. Wisconsin’s Ag in the Classroom program is carried out by a network of local educators, volunteers and representatives from agricultural organizations and businesses. The goal of the program is to help students gain a greater awareness of the role of agriculture in the economy and society, so that they may become citizens who support wise agricultural policies.
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