Fruit-tree preservation effort continues in Colo. |

Fruit-tree preservation effort continues in Colo.

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times

Roaring Fork Valley residents dropped by Cozy Point Ranch on Saturday for what organizers described as a “compost university.”

Gardening techniques, soil, noxious weeds, heritage Colorado fruit trees, compost tea-making, composting with worms and landscape restoration were among the topics discussed at the property before a crowd of people huddled in a barn.

Jimmy Dula, fundraising manager for the Heritage Fruit Tree Project, updated the crowd on his group’s latest effort, a plant-surveying project funded through a $10,000 grant the Kay Brunnier Tree Project provided. The goal is to catalog and renew a unique fruit-tree population that originated from 19th century Italian settlers in the mid-Roaring Fork Valley.

In Carbondale, the group has cataloged 55 trees, but Dula estimates there are hundreds left to be identified. Most abundant in the valley are apple trees, but they’re not the typical red delicious or golden delicious apples you find at the grocery store — these are underground apples that have grown scarce over the years.

Between July and October, Live Well Colorado and Lift-Up food pantry teamed with the Heritage Fruit Tree Project to provide an estimated 8,600 pounds of charitable fruits and vegetables, and the effort will continue this summer.

The project is carried out through gleaning, which involves locating unattended trees in the valley and making use of the fruits that fall to the ground. Dula said he gets a call about once a week from someone who has identified one of these trees. He estimates a site-visit backlog of about 40 to 50 trees. In order to make a dent in this number, Dula said his group is going to need to draw greater funding. Organizers are currently in discussions with Colorado Mountain College about integrating the project into the school’s curriculum. In order to carry this out, Dula is attempting to secure an $800,000 specialty-crop grant from the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

“We could expand this project and work with (Colorado Mountain College) campuses around the state, integrate it into their sustainability program and get more students involved, map more trees around the state,” Dula said. “Colorado Mountain College would like their students to do research on it and possibly get in the field.”

Dula said the group is exploring the possibility of creating a conservancy and nursery at the Glassier Open Space in Basalt, where the group has leased 14 acres. That could involve a hoop house that would be used to propagate a nursery stock of statewide fruit trees. This would allow the group to maintain these forgotten varieties of Colorado trees.

Those interested can help catalog Colorado fruit trees at http://www.falling The Heritage Fruit Tree Project was founded by Michael Thompson and Jerome Osentowski.