Getting Your Feet Wet
Hobby maple syrup operations can vary greatly in size. For a producer that taps 10 trees or less, a pair of very large cooking pots may be sufficient to handle your evaporation. This method is slow and is best suited to someone that wants to learn about sugaring. Remember that 10 trees may make 20 GALLONS of sap in a good run and unless you have really big pots (apple butter or butcher kettles) or alot of time, production may be slow. A flat evaporating pan, which larger operations would us as a "finishing pan," will substantially increase your rate of evaporation in pots. These pans can be purchased new or used from a sugaring equipment supplier or manufactured by a sheet metal worker. A hobbyist should try a small-scale operation for at least a year before considering the large investment necessary to start even a small sugaring business.
If you live in a maple sugaring area, you may be able to tap trees and sell the sap to a neighboring producer. A producer that wants to increase production may be willing to buy sap instead of adding taps. The purchase price will be low (in the range of $0.10 to $0.70 per gallon); however, you can develop a good collection network and perfect this end of the business prior to investing in evaporation equipment
Sugaring season may start as early as late-January. The primary trigger for good sap flow is warm days and freezing cold nights. Either ask your local Cooperative Extension Agent or the Maple Syrup Team about the progress of the tapping season. Starting early in the season is usually good for sap quality and quantity but can be very frustrating when continuing cold conditions leave you for days with little or no sap.