RUDYARD — What started as an agricultural project in high school has turned into a way of life for a U.P. Family. Over the weekend, the Besteman family had a chance to showcase their sweet product during Michigan Maple Weekend.

In Rudyard, Maple Syrup is a hot commodity. Three syrup producers within a square mile compete to serve syrup, candies and other maple products to the Eastern Upper Peninsula and beyond. Brothers Mark and Marshall Besteman arrive early on Saturday to make syrup. Maple trees produce the sweetest sap in the early spring, when the days are warm and the nights are cold.

“It’s  just an enjoyable time to be out in the woods after a long  hard winter, of snow and cold, enjoy the spring, and it’s nice to be out in the woods doing something,” said Mark Besteman, co-owner of Besteman Maple Products.

When Maple season rolls around, the Besteman family maneuvers through acres of woods, tapping tree after tree, each connected to a tube that runs above ground to the sugar house. Every year, Besteman Maple Products uses between 10,000 and 11,000 taps, with enough tubing to run from their sugar house down to Gaylord…a distance of about 90 miles.

“It’s very rewarding to see what we can make coming out of the trees, and what God has given us,” said Besteman.

On a good day, the thousands of trees can produce between 4 and 6,000 gallons of sap every day. Since sap is pure water with sugar, water needs to be removed through reverse osmosis. From there, the sap is boiled in the evaporator, filling the sugar house with that sweet smell of maple,  before being processed in the finishing pan and bottled for distribution.

Father Marvin started his company thanks to a high school project done with the Future Farmers of America. Marvin tapped about 10 trees and produced only a couple gallons of syrup a year. Now that number is in the thousands. Maple syrup has been in the Besteman bloodline for 60 years. It’s a real family business.

“It’s  enjoyable to have all  of  the sister in laws, nieces and nephews;  we’re bringing them into it now, it’s our fourth  generation  coming  up in the maple business here,” said Besteman.

You know the saying that goes: “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life?” It applies to the Besteman family. What started as a project has turned into a passion.

“It’s enjoyable that we can be self–employed, and enjoy what we want to do, enjoy life,  and come and go as we  want  other than when we have to process the sap to make the syrup,” said Besteman.

The work done at the sugarhouse goes unnoticed, but the difference between the homemade and the store–bought syrups is vast. The fact it’s a family business makes the syrup taste even better.