“I don’t see what the big deal is with GMOs anyway,” Mr. Watts said to assembled field trip. The children looked up at him, sucking on maple syrup lollipops from the gift shop.
“Do you know that back in the old days, they would have to collect sap in buckets and then carry it back to boil it to make syrup? That’s hard work, but here at Sugarhuorn Farms, we use modern ways. Three little letters never scared me. Do you know what GMO means to me? Great Money-making Opportunity!”
The only response was the noise of children sucking on their lollipops. The teacher checked her phone. The speech was the same every year.
Mr. Watts realized he was losing his audience. “Alright, let’s head on into the sapping shed.”
The group walked around the corner to where a long line of maple trees stretched out from the entrance to a tall building. “No orchards here,” Mr. Watts boasted. “We have a totally free-range operation. When they are full of sap, they come here to the sapping shed to get sapped. They used to all crowd around the door, but the new varieties line up as pretty as could be.”
They went inside where workers were hooking up lines to spigots embedded in the trunks of a dozen trees.
“Does it hurt the trees?” one boy asked.
“No, they don’t feel it,” the maple farmer said. “Trust me, when they’re this full of sap, it’s a relief to come get some of it out. You can see their branches fair shiver with pleasure when they get sapped. Now, does anyone want to try sapping a maple tree?”
“Do they really grab people with their roots and push them under the ground?” a girl asked.
“You’re thinking of willows,” Mr. Watts said. “Those can get mean. Our maples get a bit frisky sometimes, but they’re mostly harmless.”
“I’ll do it,” a boy in the back said, raising his hand.
Ten minutes later, the teacher was calling the boy’s parents and the boy was howling in the visitor center while staff members tried washing the sap out of his hair and bandaging his cuts.
“Well, I did say mostly harmless,” Mr. Watts said, red-faced, to the rest of the class. “Now, who wants to see the self-picking apple trees we’re working on?”