Life's sweetest hobby

By Kelly McCarthy

April 5, 2013 Updated Apr 6, 2013 at 12:11 PM EDT

Silver Lake Twp., PA (WBNG Binghamton) Rising prices and shrinking production of maple syrup is driving some families look to their own backyards.

Maple syrup production can be a source of income for some and an outdoor pastime for others.

Through the trees behind the VanZandbergen's house lies a homemade maple syrup sugar shack. They hold 120 maple tree taps that produce nearly 30 gallons of sweet syrup a year.

"We thought it was a nice thing for kids to grow up with syrup that wasn't corn syrup," said Lesli VanZandbergen. "It was pure maple syrup, and at first they didn't even like the taste."

The family tried their luck tapping a maple tree one evening, and 15 years later, they continue to reap rewards.

"We drilled holes in them and put soda straws in them and sap started running out," said Kirk VanZandbergen. "So we collected it and cooked it on a little camp stove that year and we probably made a pint of syrup."

What started as a backyard experiment is now a full backyard business.

"Our whole goal has always been to make our own syrup from our own trees and not spend a lot of money then," VanZandbergen said.

A gallon of maple syrup sold for $44 in 2012. But for Kirk and Leslie, the goal is not about the money.

They use what's in their backyard to it's fullest potential.

"But honestly to do it commercially," VanZandbergen said. "No I wouldn't be interested. I think that would take the fun out of it."

A poll by the Department of Agriculture shows maple producers blame the warm weather last year for the short season.

The VanZandbergen's said current weather is ideal for maple syrup production.