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Saturday, Apr 5, 2014

Maple Magic at Berkshire

imageA brisk spring day greeted  nearly 40 guests, board members, staff, and youth at Berkshire's recently refurbished Camp Lane on our residential campus in Canaan, NY. The occasion was the inaugural Berkshire Maple Magic event.

The building, which had not been used in years, is now home to   Berkshire's significantly expanded Maple Syrup Production Program and boasts a gleaming stainless steel evaporator unit that turns the sap from Berkshire’s 2000-tree “sugar bush” into delicious, pure maple syrup. The highly sophisticated machinery fills an entire room and is a great improvement over the wood-fired, kitchen table-sized evaporator used for years.

imageThe maple syrup operation is at the forefront of Berkshire's quickly evolving Workforce Development Program, which helps students become college and career ready. Youth working in the maple syrup production program learn far more than how to tap trees and boil down the sap.

"In addition to job skills specific to particular trades such as producing maple syrup, our youth learn workforce readiness skill that are in high demand across all industries," said Timothy Giacchetta, Berkshire's President and Chief Executive Officer. "They learn critical thinking and problem solving; creativity and innovation; teamwork and collaboration; professionalism and work ethic; lifelong learning and self -direction; oral and written communication; and much, much more," he explained. image

The day included a tour of Berkshire's sugar bush. As Michael (photo below), a 16-year-old student in the Maple Syrup program, told the April 5 guests, he spent long hours in very cold weather setting taps at a precise angle, connecting lines that have vacuum pressure, and expanding the network of trees. image“When I get back to the cottage after an afternoon of hard work, I feel like a man,” he says proudly.

Other Berkshire Workforce opportunities include Nursery and Horticulture; Culinary/Pizzeria; Vending Services; Small Business and Entrepreneurial Program; Building Trades; and the Cisco Networking Academy, which provides IT Helpdesk internships in this growing field.

Berkshire's Workforce Development Program has proven itself highly effective: in 2013, 100% of our graduating seniors enrolled in college or advanced vocational training.

Students in both the Maple Syrup Production Program and the Culinary Program (who catered the event) spoke about their experiences. Among their remarks: “I get to learn how to do stuff I wouldn’t learn anywhere else” . . . “I like to do things I’ve never done before” . . . and everyone agreed that being getting paid when they work is a powerful incentive and source of pride.

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Also on hand for the celebration was Congressman Chris Gibson, 19th Congressional District. Mr. Gibson joined the tour of our 2,000-tree sugar bush and the sugar shack (photo at right). Afterward, he praised the Workforce Development Program. “I am very inspired. I spent the morning here and after seeing the operation and the sugar shack, and I think this is the living embodiment of what Dr. [Martin Luther] King meant when he said that every human has dignity and every job has value," he said. "As I see the work here today and I see the lads being mentored and inspired, I know Berkshire Farm has transformed their lives.”

Berkshire's continuum of programs, on campus and throughout New York State, serve children who face the most severe challenges of poverty, have experienced trauma, and have been deemed least likely to succeed. We welcome these youths and work with them to help turn their lives around and find real hope for their future.

If you would like to support the Workforce Development Program,
please click here to make a tax-deductible donation.


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