The Sapling: A New Option for Backyard Sugaring



If you live in the Northeast and have any sort of access to maple trees – from one to one thousand – odds are you are likely to tap them at some point in your life.  It’s hard to resist the temptation to create sweet golden syrup right from your own backyard.  Once you’ve tapped those trees, however, the process of converting sap to syrup (at a 40 to 1 ratio) is a bit more complicated.  Boiling sap in your kitchen can leave a sticky film on every surface so taking the operation outside is a necessity.  Homemade evaporating solutions include everything from turkey fryers to concrete blocks to barbecue grills; hardy New Englanders have tried a thousand solutions.  While they can make for a fun family weekend, most of these solutions are hard-pressed to match the efficiency of a full-scale evaporator, meaning you might spend more time and money on that one quart of syrup than if you were to go to your local sugarhouse and buy a gallon.

Justin and Kate McCabe of Montpelier, Vermont faced just such a dilemma a few years back.  After having moved their family to a home with 10 acres of trees they were determined to try their hand at sugaring.  The first year, they tried the propane grill with a big Thanksgiving Turkey Pan and quickly came to realize the amount of propane they were using far out-paced the return value of the syrup.

They looked far and wide for a better home boiling solution.  The McCabes were dismayed to learn that most of the small evaporators that seemed logical for their size operation cost upwards of $1000 and would require a sugar shack in which to boil.  That’s when Justin, an engineer and patent attorney, decided to try his own hand at designing a system that would be more economical and efficient than the choices he saw on the market. 

After a few trial models, Justin landed on a design that worked for the family operation – the Sapling – a model they describe as “an affordable, easy-to- use, multi-use, portable, backyard evaporator!”  On a lark, Justin decided to manufacture a dozen Saplings in his garage and see if anyone would be interested in buying them.  It didn’t take long for them to sell out and for the McCabes to realize they were on the verge of creating their own small business – the Vermont Evaporator Company.


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