For the past two decades the Yoder Farm, on Chapman Road, has partnered with the Merry Lea Environmental Center of Goshen College, at Wolf Lake, to make the farm experience educational and fun for the kids.
Jan Litwiller, Environmental Science Educator and site manager from Goshen College, said there are a series of learning stations for the students; from the history station where they learn how Native Americans collected syrup to the eco system of the forest the maple trees grow in.
Discovering how to know when a tree it is ready to tap how to tap it is all a part of the adventure. In a “twice warmed experience,” students got to use a crosscut saw to cut wood after hauling it from the woods using a chain around the log, a group effort. One of the favorites of the trip is the evaporator house where students learn how to cook sap into maple syrup.
Inside the evaporator house Larry Yoder explains how it takes forty gallons of sap to make just one gallon of syrup, and when the sap is running he may be up all night taking care of the evaporator. The children looked thrilled at the idea of staying up all night, but less thrilled when they discovered there was no electricity or heat in the evaporator house. For lunch the students had pancakes with real Yoder maple syrup and sausage.
Larry Yoder told the group that some of the parents who now come to the farm visited two decades ago as children. This season, over a 1,000 school children from Fort Wayne and Allen County will be making the trip to Sugar Bush.