HISTORIC GOLD MEDAL ORCHARD
Remembering Our Past, Envisioning The Future
The historic Gold Medal Orchard, located in McElmo Canyon where it joins Trail Canyon, represents one of hundreds of remnant historic orchards located in Montezuma County and across Colorado. First planted in 1890 by James Giles, the orchard soon earned its name by winning a gold medal for the quality of its apples and peaches at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.
Remaining on-site are several old apple, pear, and quince trees, portions of the historic orchard fence; and under the grand cottonwoods are two historic homes with sheds and a privy.
When you visit, close your eyes and imagine what you would have seen while standing here at the turn of the 20th century. Fruit trees spread across the canyon floor, pink, white, and red blossoms snowing down in the spring, limbs heavy with crops throughout the summer and fall. Apples, peaches, apricots, pears, cherries, and plums ripening in the warm sun and cool evenings in the perfect location to grow beautiful and flavorful fruit.
Time passed, the trees grew into their grandeur, and then slowly faded into the landscape. Over 100 years later, only a few historic trees remain, hardy remnants of the orchard’s former glory. Heritage fruit varieties were lost, and the story of the Gold Medal Orchard and its prize-winning fruits was nearly forgotten.
Today, the story of the Gold Medal Orchard is remembered by the Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project (MORP) through its work to preserve Colorado’s fruit-growing heritage. In 2015, the orchard was listed as one of Colorado’s Most Endangered Places by Colorado Preservation, Inc. (CPI). MORP works with the Kenyon family to have it become a Saved Site. In 2019, this project was awarded an Endangered Places Progress Award by CPI at the Dana Crawford & State Honor Awards.
When you are at the orchard, open your eyes wide and take a good look at the roughly 400 fruit trees growing before you. They represent rare fruit genetics (primarily apples) that were grafted by MORP from this and other historic Colorado orchards. Envision these young trees of old genetics reaching their prime, and then still growing another hundred years from now. Gifts of our fruit-growing pioneers passed down by MORP for future generations to taste and preserve.
You are invited to share in this vision by becoming a Sustain-a-Tree Member of MORP.
The gates to the orchard are opened during scheduled MORP events, but you can view the site anytime from outside the fence. If you are a Sustain-a-Tree member you can contact MORP (via email) to schedule a visit as well.
Interpretive signs paid for in part by History Colorado, State Historic Fund which will be installed by year 2020.
Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project (MORP) presents two annual events where you may purchase heritage apple trees. Mark your calendars for the annual Heritage Apple Tree Sale on the third SAT in June, and the annual Orchard Social and Harvest Festival on the second SAT in October. In between events, you may schedule a special visit to the MORP nursery when you buy 10 trees or more.
Choose rare apple varieties hand-grafted by MORP. Proceeds benefit the establishment of school, community, and public orchards by growing and donating these rare genetics across Colorado, made possible by a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Award. Contact us if you think your organization may qualify for donated trees. The orchard site must be a public or community space with good wildlife fence, water, and labor to care for the trees. See here for our current availability list. Please note that donated trees are selected from a separate list.
Trees are $50. Did you know that MORP members receive $10 off each heritage tree purchased, qualify for an additional bulk tree discount (buy 30 or more trees and get $20 off each tree), and receive special member-only invites to tree sales? Not a member yet? Become one today We thank you.
Directions to the MORP nursery are 17312 RD G, Cortez CO 81321. From the highway 491 turnoff just south of Cortez drive west for 7.5 miles on county road G (McElmo Canyon road). Nursery is on the south or Ute Mountain side of the road. The turn-around is a three point turn for standard sized vehicles. By appointment only. Minimum 10 tree purchase.
The market has returned for Montezuma Valley Fruits with consumers desire for the taste and heritage our local apples represent. Click links below describing market opportunities and challenges in the following documents 1) Montezuma Valley Apple Market Study, 2) Needs Assessment for Mobile Juicing Unit, 3) Feasibility Study for Mobile Juicing Unit, and 4) Business Plan for Producing Apple Juice with a Mobile Juicing UnitFinalrev - Updated MORP Market Study - January 2018
CapLog - MORP - Needs Assessment - Final - Updated Jan 17
MORP Feasibility Study - Feb 5 2018 copy 2
http://montezumaorchard.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/MORP-Feasibility-Study-Feb-5-2018-copy-2.pdfFinalrev - MORP Biz Plan - Mar 26
JOIN US on October 8 from 10 to 4! Sign up to attend one of the hard cider tastings (1 or 2 p) at the FREE Orchard Social by pre paying at our Paypal Button at our website – with cider tasting and time – in the memo line, $15 members, $20 non-members; or send us an email to get on the list: email@example.com
OLD COLORADO APPLES
MORP is researching what apples historically grew in Colorado to create an Old Colorado Apples list (see below). By searching historical books, reports and records, we have so far documented 436 varieties of apples that were planted in Colorado prior to 1930. Many of the apples on this list we find still growing in our landscape on trees up to 100 years old or older. Others, nearly 50% of the list, are now considered lost/extinct. This great diversity disappeared not because these varieties did not grow well here, rather because many were simply not shiny red apples representing the standard of the time. We work to return as many of these varieties as we can to Colorado orchards. To be successful, we will need you to plant diversity in YOUR orchards — as was tradition a century ago.
Dr. Sandsten of the Colorado Agricultural College’s experimental station surveyed every orchard district in the state from 1917-1922. He not only documented what fruit varieties were growing in Colorado, but inventoried quantities grown in commercial orchards at that time, down to the age and condition of the orchards. In our work to survey and identify varieties in Colorado’s historic orchards we have retraced many of Sandsten’s footsteps likely putting many of the same trees he documented back on the map. DNA results from apple leaf samples collected by MORP match to 34% of the named varieties listed on the 1922 surveys confirming the endangered diversity still found in our landscape.
DETAILS ABOUT THE OLD COLORADO APPLES LIST:
✦ 64 varieties, 15%, are Common—10 or more mail order sources carry them; these varieties are NOT commonly found in nurseries, but can be found with specialty nurseries and collectors.
✦ 55 varieties, 13%, are Rare—4 to 9 mail order sources carry them.
✦ 108 varieties, 25%, are Endangered—1 to 3 mail order sources; we work to get our hands on these apples and increase their numbers before they end up on the lost list.
✦ 205 varieties or 47% are Lost—considered Extinct; MORP seeks these varieties in CO remnant orchards.
MORP grafts and sells/donates heritage apples trees.