South Hill Forest Products was born out of a series of coincidences and connections. Kris Shapiro (B.A. Philosophy ’09) always had an idea in his mind that he’d like to tap maple trees for syrup, but he didn’t know of anywhere on campus with a high enough density of sugar maples to do so.
As a sophomore at Ithaca College, Kris became interested in an ongoing initiative to install an industrial strength wind turbine on the college's property and began working with Professors John Confer and Jason Hamilton on many aspects of this endeavor, including the vital issue of obtaining a permit. This involved conducting an ecological impact assessment of the project, which was done by examining a Cornell University study about the ecology of the Ithaca College Natural Lands.
One night, Kris says, his mind suddenly clicked: “That study that documented plant life might be able to tell me if there were any places where sugar maple trees were abundant. So, I opened up the report (there were about 100 pages), scanned through it, and sure enough, found one section far away from campus, tucked into one of the remote corners of the property line, which contained a massively dense concentration of sugar maple trees.”
The next day, Kris and a couple friends grabbed their maps and set out to explore the area. Sure enough they found the spot, in the woods behind Rich Road, barely a mile up Coddington Road from campus. The rest, as they say, is history.
The beginnings of South Hill Forest Products would not have been possible if not for a string of connections, luck, and sheer interest on the part of Kris. He says, “I think it’s an important lesson in life that people are more likely to be successful or come up with a great idea by getting involved and then applying the knowledge learned in a different and unique way…If I had never gotten my feet wet by taking part in the wind turbine project, I would have never discovered the location of the sugar maple trees and it would possibly still be undiscovered.” Lucky for all of us though, he did!