If other sugar maple producers are operating in your area, the first step in developing a sugarbush may be to contact this producer and see if he/she is willing to purchase sap. While this may not be feasible, it will allow a new producer to concentrate on establishing a sugarbush. Tapping and sap collections require 1/3 to 1/2 of the labor involved in the who sugaring process.
Two types of collection systems exist for maple producers: traditional and tubing. The traditional tapping system involves drilling a tap, tapping in a spile and then putting a bucket (or bag) on the spile. This system is only suited to producers with a small number of taps (< 100 trees), in areas with almost no slope or areas with very dispersed sugar maple trees.
Tapping involves laying out a system where a main line that connects to a storage lank is established and numberous lateral lines are attached. This mainline can be suspended (visual demonstration of Aerial Tubing installation) or placed on the ground. Most new systems are Aerial Tubing systems. Lateral lines are usually place so as to access 10 trees or less. Droplines are attached to the lateral lines and then to spiles that are placed into the tapholes in the trees. If you numbered your trees intitially, this number system can be used to deliniate the location of each lateral line. Because each lateral is prepared for a specific set of trees, reusing the correct lateral is essential. Tubing systems can frequently be created more cheaply than the traditional bucket system. These systems can be operated by either gravity or mechanical vacuums. Gravity systems are initially cheaper; however, sap flow is higher on mechanical vacuum systems. Systems should be designed so that future alteration, especially mechanization of the vacuum, can be made.
Purchasing sugaring equipment is essentially a balance between large, faster equipment and cost. A producer that has "more time than money" may prefer to buy a smaller evaporator; however, if this producer wants to expand at a later date, he/she will have to buy a whole new evaporator. Additionally, sugaring is labor intensive. Rates of production can range from about a quart an hour for a small, hobby model to several gallons an hour for large models (see table below). If you suspect that your time will be limited, you should probably buy the larger model. If you stay in the business for 10 years, you will probably make up and difference in cost in saved labor.
Table 2. Size of evaporators and capacity for processing of sap per hour (for Waterloo Evaporators, from Waterloo and Small 1997 catalog). Note: we are not endorsing this product, but just using its rate of evaporation as a rough guideline.
|2' x 6'
|2' x 7'
|2' x 8'
|2' x 10'
|2.5' x 8'
|2.5' x 10'
|2.5' x 12'