Excited to Educate!

Future Generations Appalachia Program Team has been engaging the next generation of biologists, foresters, and economists.

The Appalachia Program Team has been popping up all over the region this year educating folks about forests, getting people excited to taste real tree syrups, and engaging the next generation of biologists, foresters, and economists in exciting activities! Whether you were in Virginia or West Virginia, there is a good chance you caught one of our staff or partners out and about.

We hosted a number of youth activities at the Mobile Sugar Shack at the West Virginia State Fair in August in Fairlea. Over the 10 days of the fair, Future Generations staff, maple producers, and McDowell County students interacted with 1,610 attendees. Visitors learned about how maple syrup is produced, designed their own leaves, built lizard habitats, and were treated to a full-on play pancake breakfast for kids. 
Last fall, one of our West Virginia State student interns, Meredith Miller, set up at Spring Hill Cemetery Park in Charleston for Founders Day. She hosted syrup tastings of maple, walnut, birch, and sycamore for visitors to try as they walked along the paths to different Appalachian heritage and state history activities.

This year’s Mountain State Maple Days was a resounding success. Over 35 partnering maple producers opened their sugar houses and tapping areas for tours, tastings, and syrup purchases. This year featured more maple value-added goodness than ever before, including cotton candy, infused syrups, baked items, and barbequed pork sandwiches. Program staff and partners were stationed at McCoy’s Mill in Pendleton County, Frostmore Farm in Pocahontas County, Ronk and Estep Branch farms in Lincoln County, and Toms Creek Maple in Wayne County. Partners from Virginia Tech, West Virginia State University, and McDowell County Schools collected from sites to determine community level economic impact data so that the Appalachian Program can better assist in the planning process.
West Virginia State University, one of our research partners, presented to the West Virginia Legislature in early March. Dr. Yangjin Jung and her lab technician showed a demonstration on proper maple mainline sanitation practices to illustrate creative research partnerships between both land grant universities and Future Generations University. Over 100 elected officials and staff members were able to learn about the importance of the maple industry to the region historically and current research to keep producers profitable.

The longest running maple festival in the country is in Highland County, Virginia, right across the border from the main university campus. Through partnerships with the Highland County Chamber of Commerce and Virginia Tech, the Appalachian team manned the Mobile Sugar Shack and talked to 948 people over a four-day period in March. Maple producers in the county are open for tours, restaurants serve maple-themed specials, and local crafts makers sell their wares. This festival has shown to bring over one million dollars of revenue to the county annually.
Finally, the team participated in Trout Fest the first weekend in May by manning the Kids Conservation Area. Visitors to the Franklin area were able to explore forestry principles, create a fish print, and design their own water cycle bracelets all while learning about best practices and conservation. The team interacted with 54 people and was the highlight of the festival for many attendees.

It has been a busy year for the program team, and we are all looking forward to seeing you at more regional events this coming year, starting with the West Virginia State Fair in August!
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