SUNY Cobleskill Student’s Maple Mindset Sustains a Growing Business

Candy-making is on AJ Fletcher’s mind. His schedule is jam-packed, though “syrup-packed” is more appropriate. Even with the help of machines, it takes time to fold sugary, syrupy pours of mixture into maple leaf-shaped molds. It takes even longer for the confections to harden.

Time isn’t something AJ has in abundance. He is a fulltime SUNY Cobleskill student, making his sticky business — Fletcher Hill Syrup and Forest Products — a bit stickier.

This labor of love is serious labor. Even with the help of technology and professional-grade equipment, it involves a series of arduous processes. First AJ taps trees for sap. Then he boils his harvest. Next, he needs to “draw off” the syrup, which, with help from the evaporator, prepares the syrup to be filtered and bottled. Only then can he think about marketing his product.

As an applied “learning laboratory,” SUNY Cobleskill’s new Carriage House Café and General Store creates opportunities for students to practice the ins and outs of retail operation, farm-to-table production, and customer service. For AJ Fletcher, it is also a showcase for his products; $3 gets you a hand-wrapped bundle of Fletcher Hill Syrup maple candies. Online and at local farmers’ markets, he continues to sell maple-infused syrups, sugars, candies, and cream, as well as maple pops.

AJ is a regular at fairs, festivals, and markets — his homemade products reflecting his dedication much like the maple leaf tattoo across his bicep. He keeps active on social media, where he is quick to remind that pure maple syrup possesses higher antioxidant values than cantaloupe.

All the while he keeps up with his Agricultural Business studies, Woodsmen Team events, and involvement in campus Greek Life. He even plans to expand his line of products. While he won’t make any promises, he says he has started brainstorming recipes for maple popcorn.

Try Fletcher Hill Syrup products at the Carriage House Café and General Store at SUNY Cobleskill.