Apple revival: how science is bringing historic varieties back to life

Exploring the genomes of half-forgotten and heirloom apple varieties could help to ensure the future of the incomparable fruits.

When Jude Schuenemeyer picked the apple up off the ground in December 2017, he wondered whether his two-decade search was over. It was a firm winter apple, orange in colour with a distinctive ribbed shape and wider than it was tall. “We knew right away that we had never seen it before,” Schuenemeyer says.

He and his wife, Addie, started the Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project in 2008 to find and revive endangered heirloom apple varieties. The horticulturalists, based in Cortez, Colorado, had made a few discoveries, but there was one coveted variety that had eluded them: the Colorado Orange. Once a popular apple in the western United States, it had essentially disappeared by 1900. And although the Schuenemeyers had chased a few false leads in the past, this apple — from an almost-dead tree on a private piece of land near Cañon City — looked promising. Continue reading at Nature Magazine…

By Christopher Kemp, October 17, 2023

Got Apples?

MORP Seeks Apples to Buy

Do you have ripe apples that meet the criteria below? If so, please let Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project know! We are using the apples for pasteurized juice boxes so health regulations apply.

For Apples that YOU pick:
  • Harvest from tree or shake onto clean tarp. No ground falls allowed.
  •  Apples must be clean – free of dirt, manure, leaves, twigs, or rot, and harvested into clean boxes or crates (see our Harvest Lending Supplies). Do not harvest where there is fresh manure and livestock. Follow GAP practices.
  • We will pay $8/bushel for quantities of 20 bushels or more that you pick and deliver to the Orchard Hub (see directions below) per season. For quantities less than 20 bushels we will gratefully accept donations.
For Apples that WE Pick:
  • Reach out to us if you have an estimated crop of 20 bushels or more and have an orchard that is free from livestock and fresh manure. Please rotate livestock out of orchard well ahead of harvest season.
  • MORP will pay $4/bushel for apples that we pick that meet the health regulations described in the YOU pick section above. We are limited on the number of orchards that we can pick per season so reach out to us as soon as you know you have a crop for an increased opportunity to schedule your orchard in.
Community Juicing Day

Bring your apples and let us turn them into juice on Community Juicing Day! Or do you simply want to purchase juice and do not necessarily have apples to bring? Either way, please join us at the Orchard Hub! 

Mobile Juicing Service

Have 20 bushels of apples or more? Consider scheduling our mobile juicing service.

Harvest Lending Supplies

Do you need crates or bins to more easily participate in any of the above activities? Please go here to reserve supplies. Our harvest lending supplies program is made possible with support from the LOR Foundation.

Directions to Orchard Hub

Directions to Orchard Hub:  13729 (formerly 13751) Road 29, Dolores, Colorado : THIRD DRIVEWAY ON THE WEST SIDE OF ROAD NORTH OF SOUTHWEST SEED. Please schedule in advance or visit during scheduled event.


Montezuma’s Comeback: the number of Colorado apple orchards is growing again

A century ago, the apple boom was in full swing in Montezuma County.

The home of Mesa Verde in southwestern Colorado had a high enough elevation and dispersed enough orchards to stave off the codling moth that decimated apple trees on the Front Range and Western Colorado in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

At the peak, there were about 5,000 acres of orchards in Montezuma County, producing several million bushels of apples a year. As of the early 2000s, the county’s apple acreage had dwindled to a little more than 100. Continue reading at Thirst Colorado...

BY ERIC PETERSON, August 14, 2023


February is upon us and we turn from a love letter to one place, to a labor of love in conserving some of the fruits of human’s labors in many places on earth – apples. We’re in conversation with Jude Schuenemeyer, who with his wife Addie has spent decades discovering, researching, documenting, protecting, restoring, and propagating the rich diversity of heritage apple varieties in Colorado’s southwestern-most Montezuma county.

Listen to the podcast

The diversity of apple genetics in this region traces back 150 years or more, and as apple tree pruning, and apple scion wood selection, and grafting seasons are all upon us, Jude is with us this week to share more about how The Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project ( affectionately referred to as MORP) is preserving historic orchards and simultaneously cultivating food, economic, and environmental strength in their region. Listen to the podcast at Cultivating Place…

By Jennifer Jewell | January 2, 2023

Pure & Local Apple Juice

Pure & Local Apple Juice

WINNER of the “Manufacturer with a Mission” award from Colorado Biz Magazine, 2022.

WHERE TO PURCHASE: Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project, Apple Core Project, Dolores Food Market, Slaven’s True Value, Pueblo Seed & Food Co, Fenceline Cider, Eso Terra Cider, Bountiful Ridge Farm, Four Seasons Greenhouse, Mesa Rose Kitchen + Bakery, Walk In Liquor & Coffee, Straw Hat Farm Market & Kitchen Store, The Butcher & The Baker, Bruno (Between the Covers coffee shop), Moonflower Community Cooperative, Oxford Orchard, Peachfork Orchards & Vineyard, Hoof & Feather Farm

Dear Apple Juice Lover,

Your every sip of pure and local heirloom apple juice directly supports our joint missions to preserve Colorado’s fruit growing heritage and restore an orchard culture and economy to the southwestern region.

We work to promote fruit tree preservation through mapping, identifying, grafting, planting, documenting and connecting local resources for preservation.

By providing mobile juicing services to area farmers, we help to build a market for previously un-harvested fruit in this very juice you drink.

Thank you for your support. Together we are the dedicated CORE keeping Colorado “Orchard County”.

Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project 
Apple Core Project 

Ingredients: Pasteurized, unfiltered apple juice
Processed and Packaged by: Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project
Pulp can naturally occur and may settle. Shake if desired.
Two month shelf life after opening.
Refrigerate after opening.
Keep box in pouring position once opened to prevent air from entering the bag.

Made in Colorado 2022 — Manufacturer With a Mission


Married horticulturists Jude and Addie Schuenmeyer officially launched the nonprofit Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project, or MORP, in 2014 to preserve legacy apple orchards in southwestern Colorado. “You can’t drive across Montezuma County without seeing old orchards, but they’re so prevalent they start blending into the landscape,” says Jude.

Some orchards date back to the early 1900s, but the local industry withered with the ascendance of the apple industry in Washington state in the 1950s. That led to the mass production of Red Delicious and Granny Smith apples, while most of the country’s more than 15,000 heirloom varieties — the bread and butter in Montezuma County — were left to rot.

“Colorado grows some of the best-quality apples on Earth,” says Jude. “With hot daytime temperatures and cool nighttimes, there is nothing like Colorado fruit. We have really come close to losing our apple economy in this state, and it should not happen.” Read more at Colorado Biz Magazine…

By Eric Peterson | December 28, 2022

What’s in a name? The importance of identity in heirloom apple tree preservation

Historic North American apple (Malus domestica) orchards that thrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with cultivar compositions unlike today’s orchards, are vanishing. There are several reasons for this loss: tree aging, cost of tree maintenance, and urbanization. Many groups have collected local knowledge regarding the history and horticulture of apples using both phenotypic and genotypic identification methods. Some of these groups have joined with scientists to form the collaborative “Historic Fruit Tree Working Group of North America” to facilitate the conservation of heirloom apple cultivars in North America through documentation, identification, collaboration, and education. Read full journal article at Plants, People, Planet…

By Amy Dunbar-Wallis, Gayle M. Volk, Alexandra M. Johnson, Adalyn Schuenemeyer, John Bunker, David Castro, Todd Little-Siebold, Lydia Pendergast, Richard Uhlmann, Laura Sieger, David Benscoter, Cameron P. Peace | July 31, 2022

Heritage orchardists identify and propagate rare apple trees

The Colorado Orange isn’t an orange at all…it’s a remarkable type of apple, a late-ripening golden yellow fruit with a reddish blush and a hint of citrus flavor. And if it weren’t for the efforts of orchardists like Jude and Addie Schuenemeyer, the Colorado Orange and other rare apple varieties might have been lost forever.

The Colorado Orange tree originated in the historic Fremont County orchard planted in the 1860s by Jesse Frazier, the first successful apple grower in the Colorado Territory. The Colorado Orange, nearly forgotten today, was popular and well-known in its heyday. It was featured in catalogs and even sent along in boxes of the state’s finest apples to President Teddy Roosevelt in 1905. And in 2018, there was only one known Colorado Orange tree left.

Jude Schuenemeyer says that the Colorado Orange is not the only endangered strain of apple in the state with an interesting story. He and his wife have found many “unique unknowns,” varieties with just one or two trees left that they send to a lab for DNA testing. The Schuenemeyers co-direct the Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project (MORP), and they are rescuing these rare trees in a cluster of heritage orchards in their care in Montezuma County. “Our mission is to work to preserve Colorado’s fruit growing heritage,” said Jude Schuenemeyer. Read full story at San Juan Skyway Visitor Guide…

By Deb Dion | March 9, 2021