Local group looks for heirloom trees

Apples were harvested from Battlerock Farm by students on a Montezuma County School to Farm Field Trip. Enlargephoto

Special to the Times

Apples were harvested from Battlerock Farm by students on a Montezuma County School to Farm Field Trip.

Do you have an old variety of fruit tree that is native to this area?

This year, the Montezuma County School to Farm Project (MSTFP) is working on talking with as many people as possible and finding out about heirloom and heritage fruit trees that are specific to this area.

"I have already talked to a few people about these native types of trees," said Syverson, "and it is my understanding that there are quite a few fruit trees - especially apple - that are native to this area." She was told there was a Menefee Apple tree, that originated in Weber Canyon.

MSTFP is an educational project that is headed and coordinated by Sarah Syverson. They are the ones responsible for putting the school garden behind the Mancos school, which has been a good learning tool for many of the school kids. Erin Bohm directs the garden in Mancos and teaches the kids how to manage it - planting, weeding, harvesting and also what grows when.

Syverson's goal is to find these heirloom fruit trees, as many as she can, and then have Jude Schuenemeyer, of Let it Grow Nursery, take a graft from the tree and plant it. Schuenemeyer, whose passion is old fruit trees, and has done this before, will work with 3rd and 4th graders to show them the process. He will also teach them the history of the grafting procedure.

"I'm hoping the kids will really have fun with this," said Syverson. "They'll be able to take fruit off the trees they're planting this year when they're in high school!"

The fruit trees, which will be 6 inches to a foot in height when they're first planted, will need to be indoors until they get transplanted to an orchard area a few years down the road, Syverson said.

The MSTFP recently participated in the Colorado Proud School Day, a day when kids all over Colorado eat locally grown produce, at least for that one day. Here in Mancos, it has become a daily occurrence, thanks to the efforts of many people, including Syverson, Bohm, the local farmers and producers and the school lunchroom staff.

"It's so exciting ...," said Syverson. "These kids just love to eat thing that they know they've grown, that they've had a hand in growing ... that they normally wouldn't eat!"

So, the School to Farm Project is looking for anyone in the area - families, landowners, growers - who have old varieties of fruit trees and who are willing to have it carefully grafted so that Mancos school kids can learn about them.

"The trees don't even necessarily have to be bearing fruit," said Syverson. "As long as it's an older variety."

The school to farm project will be doing this through the month of January. Anyone who is interested can contact Sarah Syverson through e-mail at syversonsarah@yahoo.com or by calling her at 970-903-8831.

The classes that will teach the kids about these varieties of fruit will be taught in conjunction with the Colorado standards for each grade and will be the last two weeks of February.

The Montezuma County School to Farm Project has had over 9,000 educational hours in Montezuma County for 2012, which is double the hours in 2011, Syverson said. There was also 600 pounds of produce harvested from the various gardens by over 500 kids and volunteers in 2012.

It is a project of the LiveWell Montezuma and the Mancos Conservation District.

Lew Mathis, (far right) a local Mancos farmer and MSTFP instructor, taught students how to make fresh apple cider. Enlargephoto

Special to The Times

Lew Mathis, (far right) a local Mancos farmer and MSTFP instructor, taught students how to make fresh apple cider.