Ryan Vandenberg knew from an early age that he wanted to be a teacher when he grew up. And that is exactly what he did. The 43- year-old is a high school math teacher. However, Ryan also found another love at age eight following a grade school trip to a local conservation area where he witnessed how maple syrup was made. This led to a lifelong passion for making his own maple products. “When Ryan returned home that night after the school trip, we went out and tapped two of the trees on our property and his mother boiled it down on the kitchen stove,” recalls his father, Bill. The next summer Ryan and his parents Bill and Linda went to an auction and bought buckets, spiles, and lids as well as a small evaporator pan. Ryan set up 50 taps and a small evaporator in the sugar bush at the back of the farm. “One day after a big run, Ryan was only 8 years old and went to bed at 10, I made syrup until 2 in the morning while Ryan was asleep. I wound up coming home in the morning through the snow and wind. When we sat down for breakfast, I told Ryan that next year we are either going to quit or improve. Ryan chose to improve and the following year he went to 200 taps and he has been growing ever since.”

Ryan is now the proud owner of Sweet Maple, a business located in Lambton Shores about a half hour from Sarnia. Ryan and his family, which includes his wife Mary and their sons Jacob and Connor, along with his dad, Bill and mother Linda, all have a hand in operating the business. They produce 100% pure maple syrup. They sell syrup in a variety of grades and tastes as well as maple butter and maple candies, all of which can be ordered from their website. During the late winter sap run, they open their doors to the public where families can come and see just how syrup is made. Despite a heavy workload because of his two jobs, not to mention coaching his sons in soccer, Ryan loves his side hustle. “I always enjoyed being outside working in the winter months when I was a kid,” Ryan proclaims. “It just grew from there. It is all I really know; teaching and making maple syrup. I love doing both.” Managing all of this is made easier by the support Ryan receives from his family. “The most satisfying thing for me at the end of the day is working with my family,” Ryan says. Bill is immensely proud of Ryan’s maple syrup operation. “Ryan has one of the most modern operations in Ontario,” his proud father boasts. “He uses the latest reverse osmosis technology and the latest evaporator. Every line in the pipelines in the sugar bush has a perfect vacuum. His equipment absolutely shines! The cleanliness of his operation is one thing that really impresses people when they walk into the sugarhouse.” When it comes to the syrup the Vandenbergs are serving, their motto says it all. “From tree to table. Quality at its best.”