By TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER
By the end of next winter, Mount Southington ski area hopes to offer homemade maple syrup to accompany their WaffleHaus. The sugary treat will be possible through a collaboration between the resort and the students from the vocational agriculture program at Southington High School.
Mount Southington president and general manager Jay Dougherty and SHS VoAg teacher Owen McLaughlin have partnered on the project aimed to offer real world experience to students. This isn’t a new partnership. McLaughlin’s students have toured Mount Southington in the past to learn about snow-making operations.
“Right now our class specifically is focused on forestry,” said Alyssa Cleland, a junior. “Just recently we have been tasked with helping out the Ski Mount Southington club with finding all of the red and sugar maples so that they are then able to produce their own maple syrup at the WaffleHaus.”
Dougherty said that the project adds some more hometown flavor for ski area patrons. “It’s a good opportunity to take advantage of the resources we have at that the mountain,” he said, “and add a little something to the guest experience that’s unique to this property.”
Come springtime, students will assist Mount Southington employees in tapping the trees and harvesting the sap that will eventually be made into syrup.
“I just think it’s great any time that a business can become involved with a school program,” said Dougherty. “Any time you can create an actual real world experience, and you can take a project and see it all the way through and involve a classroom experience for kids who are trying to get into certain businesses, whether they want to get involved in the ski business or not. I’m all for education and creating an opportunity to involve a classroom any time here.”
McLaughlin said that the vocational agriculture program offers an alternative to local students who wish to pursue careers in agriculture. The process begins in middle school when students apply to the program and write an essay that details why believe they should be accepted.
For many of the students, their desire to enter the program stemmed from their childhood love of animals. Such was the experience of Alyssa Bossie, a senior, and Christopher Santoro, a junior.
“When I was younger I always wanted to do something with animals, and being in this program helped me narrow down what I wanted to be when I get older,” said Santoro. “When I get out of here, I want to go to college and major in marine biology, and then go into the marine biology field and maybe become one and work in the water.”
After entering the program, Bossie said she learned that there are many ways to work with animals other than becoming a veterinarian. Some of the pathways offered through the program include veterinary science, aquaculture, landscape, forestry, several fields of biology, horticulture, and many more.
The VoAg program is open to students in the towns of Southington, Berlin, Bristol, Cheshire, Farmington, New Britain, Plainville, Terryville, Waterbury, and Wolcott. To learn more about the program, visit southingtonschools.org.
Mount Southington is set to open for the 2019-20 season during the second week of December. To keep up to date with all things Mount Southington, visit mountsouthington.com.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Taylor Murchison-Gallagher, email her at TMurchison@PlainvilleObserver.com.