Capac FFA student produces, sells, own maple syrup
CAPAC — Having been raised loving to go to the woods as a child, Dori Stuever of Capac decided to take what she learned as a young child and build her own business. Stuever, a 17-year old resident of Mussey Township, is in the sticky business of producing her own maple syrup. Her 50/50 business venture is shared by a neighbor, Richard Ogden, who has the facility – a sugar shack – to boil the sap and generate the finalized product.
Raised on a homestead near Cass City, Dori was brought up around the maple syrup business at a young age. She now has her own business in northwest St. Clair County and has been thrilled with the milder winter months of this producing season and says it should result in higher production amounts.
“This year has been an unusually warm season and it has actually helped with the amount of sap I have collected,” said Stuever. “I was able to collect sap a few weeks ago in shorts and a T-shirt and I much prefer that, as opposed to being all bundled up like some winters.” Although typically the season concludes by the end of March, Stuever said this year she was able to get trees tapped much earlier than normal. The sap flows best after a frost and then when the sun is shining she said.
To tap a maple, Dori says a hole is drilled about two inches deep and a tube is installed near the vein of the maple. She likened the maple sap flowing process like a blood stream in a human. Once the sap is collected daily, she takes the raw material to Ogden who then spends hours and hours boiling the syrup until a final product is achieved. Extreme caution is used when drilling the holes to not be near a formerly drilled hole. Stuever said she estimates using only 10 percent of the tree’s nutrients when collecting sap, so as to not damage the tree.
“I’ve got some maples in my front and back yards that are by themselves and draw a lot of sunshine and they are flowing really well,” said the young businesswoman. “Some other trees are bunched together and they don’t produce as much sap.” While Stuever has a large wooded lot on her family property, she has also been able to tap in to around 100 maple trees on a nearby neighbor’s property, increasing her capabilities to collect sap. She estimated about two-thirds of her sap is collected by sap bags while the other third is drawn through tubes in a gravity flow system.
A member of the Capac FFA, Stuever says she attends a couple of classes on the school property, but is largely home-schooled, giving her time to work with the syrup project. She spends around two hours a day checking on her project and claims she has been known to do her school work in the woods. “I love being out there and go out in the woods all the time,” she said with a smile. “If you can’t find me, you can always check in the woods.”
With a ratio of 40 gallons of sap creating one gallon of the finished product, Dori says she has already been able to come up with eight gallons of syrup and says the final amount could be closer to 15 gallons of the sweet treat, about five gallons more than normal, due to better than average production conditions.
The young businesswoman has also experienced a taste of marketing as well, promoting her syrup through many avenues, including Facebook. She said she has a regular customer in Arizona while others are local customers. She sells her product on a first come, first served basis and customers often contact her through Facebook messenger to arrange for the sale of the product. She sells her syrup in quantities of a quart, pint and half pint.
At 13 years old, Dori helped her sister Addie with the syrup business and when her older sister went on to college, Dori decided to give it a go on her own, after moving to the Capac area. She intends to continue the business for a couple of more years before attending Michigan State University where she would like to study communications and marketing. She has set herself up for sweet success.