The roots of Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project began when co-founders Jude and Addie Schuenemeyer got into the nursery profession in 2001. They originally ran a nursery that had been in business for over 50 years and had a lot of older clientele, who often asked about apple varieties they remembered enjoying as children. In asking around, the Schuenemeyers learned the area’s rich history, discovered other rare varieties, and realized just how many old trees still grew here- quite often with the descendants of settlers who planted these old orchards still living on the original farms or at least in the area.
After the couple purchased a peach orchard in McElmo Canyon, Jude attended an orchard restoration workshop in Capital Reef with some of our Nation’s most renowned fruit enthusiasts, and taught himself to graft from books. Thus began their efforts to find and graft from heritage trees returning one to the trees owners when possible, bringing a piece of living history back to the place where the parent tree stood for more than 100 years. For them, to pass back a tree that was grafted by someone’s grand or great grandparents is priceless.
Jude and Addie also plant young scions grafted from these trees in their McElmo Orchard as a genetic bank- a way to preserve the rare varieties found. They hope, however, to do more than just build and preserve a collection of old apple varieties. They hope to capture and preserve the history of the region as a fruit-growing center in the late 1800s and early 1900s, as well as restore a lost fruit economy.
In 2014 MORP put together a Board of Directors, adopted By-Laws, and organized under 501c3 fiscal sponsorship in order to systematically collect, document, and share the work done so far; and to secure funding to make further progress towards its goals.
Since its founding, MORP has established school, community, and conservation orchards to preserve Colorado’s rare and endangered apple genetics.
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