AMES, Iowa — Ben Hoksch loves working out doors. He lives simply with a variety of seasonal vocations, to help him pay the bills. His current effort is capturing the sweet sap of maple trees around the Ames area.
“We’ve got about 30 participants this year I call the business Front Yard Sugar,” said Hoksch. “I usually knock on the door depending on how interested they seem, and say I make maple syrup here in town I live in Ames and I see you’ve got a beautiful maple tree in your side yard.”
The deal is that there is no money changing hands, rather he taps the sap and returns a portion of the sap as a jar of syrup as payment. Hoksch has teamed with local farmer Joe Lynch on his Onion Creek Farm, where he’s built a cooker to boil the water out of the sap, to make maple sugar.
“Met some friends back in 1985-86 that were doing some maple syrup on a very small scale, we realized we had some mature black maple trees back here which are very closely related to the Sugar Maple,” said Lynch. “Ben’s idea of tapping maple trees in people’s front yards in town is a great idea we don’t have enough trees to keep this kind of operation going.”
Hoksch had a great harvest a year ago with around 1500 gallons of sap. This year, he’s at around 300 gallons of sap, so his harvest is much smaller.
“We just kind of went from winter to spring and we didn’t really have that transition,” said Hoksch. “I’m concerned for the forecast we don’t get these nights that are low I’m just dead in the water, so I may be switching over to birch trees honestly.”
Hoesch will not have much syrup for sale this year, but you can follow his business, and other work, including his work with honey bees, on his blog site.