Company: Montana MapleWorks
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Ecological Agriculture, New College of California (2009)
Career History: Owner, Maple Syrup Producer, Montana MapleWorks, Missoula, MT (2019-Present); Landscaper; Cheesemaker at a local creamery in Bitterroot Valley
David M. Knudson, Owner at Montana MapleWorks, has been recognized as a Marquis Emerging Leader for their contributions and achievements in the field of food production.
Mr. Knudson says he became involved in his syrup-making profession accidentally. Backed by a bachelor’s degree in ecological agriculture from New College of California, he launched his career as a landscaper looking after trees in Missoula, Montana when he became curious about producing maple syrup from silver and Norway maples as a hobby. This led to him making 45 gallons of syrup he didn’t know what to do with. But realizing he had more than he could share with others, he took the proper steps to establish himself as a cottage food business, culminating in the creation of Montana MapleWorks in 2019. The only licensed commercial producer of maple syrup in the state and the only one in the world that sources sap from the confines of an urban forest, Mr. Knudson offers a high-quality, dynamic, and unique taste of his city and has even taught his process to the state’s agricultural and health departments.
Mr. Knudson collects the sap from 200 trees throughout Missoula and monitors their health for at least six months before tapping them and ultimately producing 112 grades of syrup. He boils the Silver Maple, Sugar Maple, Box Elder, and Norway saps with two evaporators in his driveway and filters and bottles everything from a small “sugar shack” inside his converted garage. Since starting his entrepreneurial venture, he has earned commendations and been featured in numerous news articles that have catapulted him to fame as a maple sugaring and production expert in his state. In addition, he has made it his mission to use his syrup-making as an avenue for community education and outreach, wanting people to better appreciate urban trees as a valuable food resource. He has been able to sugar, produce, and market through research grants, one of which came from Utah State University to develop the maple syrup industry in the Interior West. A representative from New Leaf Tree Syrups, a company that makes organic sweeteners from trees, introduced him to the university, whose research project aims to educate landowners about maple sap collection and production processes.
Looking toward the future, Mr. Knudson aims to develop new syrups and granulated sugars from sweet cherries, apples, and other local fruits. He also hopes to perfect cold extracted fruit syrups to make the most of fruit waste and byproducts. Wanting to pass his knowledge on to others, he plans to help others use their equipment and skills to build careers in syrup production.