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The sole producer of maple syrup in Montana is generating attention across the state



Billings, Montana – Owner of Montana Maple Works and resident of Missoula, David Knudson began tapping trees for profit in 2019. He approaches his work in a distinctive way that has the interest of a local arborist in Billings.

“My business model is very different from the conventional sugar producer that has one large pan and one large sugar shack that makes just one bottle of syrup or maybe a few different grades of dark or light,” said Knudson.

Knudson’s initial interest developed into a business, which opened up other opportunities.

“I’m really community focused, the educational component is most important for me. I love teaching people and giving people skills and knowledge and letting them have a taste, literally of the place they live,” added Knudson.

To give Montanans a taste of nature’s sweets, Knudson harvests several different varieties of maple trees all across Missoula.

“I tap trees down in Corvallis at the Daly Mansion and I have trees that I’ll tap in East Missoula, and I have trees that I tap in Lolo. So, I’m kind of spread far apart,” Knudson added.

He noted that the Missoula valley had over 30,000 maple trees. Since the majority of them have been planted or let to grow naturally during the past 100 years, the possibility has arisen for the creation of Montana maple works.

“I was able to find privately owned trees and kind of build my business by just utilizing peoples yard trees,” Knudson said.

He claims that a key factor in the success of his firm was the distinctiveness of maple tapping.

“It’s not something that’s done around here. Most people, although there is a contingency of north Easterners and upper Midwesterners, most people around here have no clue, and have not been exposed to the art of sugaring,” Knudson added.

Josh Smith, an arborist in Billings and the proprietor of S-6 Enterprises, was drawn to that work of art. Additionally, Billings may soon experience maple tapping.

“There’s a lot of great trees in Billings and a lot of people are particular with their trees and tree health. I think that giving back to them by having a good healthy tree that you’re maintaining and then also being able to get a byproduct out of that tree, besides just wood, would be great,” said Smith.

When Smith came across Knudson’s company online, he was inspired because he “liked that he could potentially supply another service” to his current clients. And according to him, Billings has a lot to offer in terms of maple syrup.

“There’s a lot of good maple trees that were planted back in the 20’s and 30’s and they just need to be maintained and if they’re maintained they’re going to produce. A lot of customers that have downtown areas where they have trees that they already pay to maintain but maybe they want more production out of it,” added Smith.

According to Knudson, the manufacture of maple syrup in Montana is “really exceptional” because it creates a link.”They’re connecting directly with the sugar maker. That’s what people want, that’s what people are moving towards, as far as knowing where their food is coming from and having that bio-regional connection to their food,” said Knudson.


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