We've Got Some Explaining To Do...


By Sam Castonguay

If you haven’t snooped around the rest of our website just yet, please let me be the first to excitedly introduce you to South Hill Forest Products: a student-run, non-timber forest products business with guided learning and experimentation at its core.

The business has its home base at Ithaca College and is regularly powered by students enrolled in the Environmental Studies and Sciences Department’s “Non-Timber Forest Products” course. The class - led by Professor Jason Hamilton - seeks to educate students about the ins and outs of products like maple syrup and honey while simultaneously inspiring students to reframe their understanding of “environment” and “community”.

Class has been in session every spring semester for the last ten or so years. That is, until now.

This semester, our fearless leader Professor Jason Hamilton is on a well-deserved sabbatical leave. Thus, he is unable to lead a Non-Timber Forest Products course for Spring 2019. Determined to keep the business going and the knowledge flowing, one of our very own team members stepped up to manage operations through the creation of a Non-Timber Forest Products club: the one and only Jen Skala.

Jen is a senior Ithaca College student embarking on her final semester in the 607. Given her 2+ semesters of experience and passion for the creation of our products, Jen is more than suitable to lead our team in Jason’s absence.

Jason won’t be too far away though, as he will be spending his sabbatical in Ithaca to develop a new course on beekeeping. Thanks, Jason, for always thinking of your students and new things to teach us.

So why did Jen and the rest of the team decide to voluntarily give up their free time to boil maple sap at 3am on a school night?

Four main reasons:

  1. To ensure that anyone who wanted to take the course this semester had the opportunity to do so in some capacity

  2. To provide the students who enroll in the Spring 2020 Non-Timber Forest Products course with some prior experience

  3. To further connect with and learn from the supportive community in and around Ithaca, NY

  4. We love what we do

We did have to moderately downsize our operation this year due to the switch from for-credit labor to voluntary labor. In other words, we have narrowed our focus to the production of maple syrup, hickory syrup, and wood-carved items (primarily spoons). Our maple syrup operation was also reduced from roughly 110 trees tapped to about 60 trees tapped.

Not to worry, though! We will still host our annual Sugarbush Open House on Saturday, April 27th, 10am – 2pm, at our sugarbush on the end of Rich Road (Ithaca, NY). Expect the usual: signature South Hill Forest Products pancakes (regular, vegan, and gluten free), sugarbush tours, open fires and ‘shmallows for roasting, activities for all ages, and lots of spoons n’ syrups. We can’t wait to see you there!

In the meantime, please explore the rest of our website and business! You can learn more about our history, meet the team, scope out our products, and see what we’re cooking up for the future!

Want to learn more about what we’re up to this semester? Feast your eyes on this article written by the Ithacan.