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Sticky side hustle: B.C.’s thriving maple syrup industry

Click to play video: 'This is BC: Local secret of west coast maple syrup producers' This is BC: Local secret of west coast maple syrup producers
Quebec's maple syrup industry is recognized around the world but a few producers on the west coast are also tapping into the liquid gold. Jay Durant has more on one our province's sweetest secrets in This is BC – Mar 13, 2022

When most people think of Canadian maple syrup, Quebec will come to mind, but there are a small number of producers on the west coast.

One area in particular on eastern Vancouver Island is a hotbed for tapping this liquid gold. However, outside the local community, few people in B.C. know about it.

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For Glenn Janzen, what began as a hobby has turned into a small side business, with an emphasis on ‘small’.

“It’s not something you do to make a living,” he told Global’s This is BC. “It’s too much work.”

Twenty years ago, Janzen started out processing maple syrup with a half-metre pan held over an open fire.

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In 2017, he upgraded and got an evaporator, and now is able to make enough maple syrup to share and sell to others under the moniker Beneath the Bark Sugar Shack.

“As soon as we say local, people’s eyes light up,” Sharon Janzen said.

“They say: ‘What? Local? What do you mean local maple syrup?’”

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The Janzens have been tapping up to 300 trees a year on their property, learning the trade from a master forester who has taught several people on the east coast of Vancouver Island over the years, building up a little rivalry with the powerhouse maple syrup producers out east.

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“It’s a matter of saying, ‘Na, na, na,’ to Eastern Canada,” syrup mentor Harold Macy explained.

“People ask me, ‘Is it better?’ And I say, ‘Obviously.’”

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The product can be extremely valuable. Between 2011 and 2012, thieves in a Maple Syrup heist in Quebec made off with $18 million of product.

Fortunately, the Janzens have had only one theft since they got into the business, and it wasn’t your average thief.

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“A bear had come in the middle of the night,” Janzen said.

“And I guess Yogi got a hold of the sap and made his own drink.”

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There are still many more trees waiting to be tapped on the Janzens’ property. The couple has mused about expanding.

“Sometimes I just feel like it’s grown too much for us to handle. And we want our son to be involved, but he’s got his own life too,” Sharon said.

For now, it’s a local secret tucked away in a tiny forest in Black Creek, B.C.

To contact Jay Durant with a story idea for This is BC, email him details and contact information at thisisbc@globalnews.ca

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