Since the 1800s, thousands of varieties of apples are thought have gone extinct. But one group is working to bring some of those varieties back, and revitalize heritage apple orchards in the process.

“They were a gift from 100 years to us and it’s a gift we want to pass on 100 years from now,” said Jude Schuenemeyer or the Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project.

Apple trees, rare and extinct, no longer lost to the annals of time, thanks to work by Jude Schuenemeyer and the Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project.

“This is the Colorado Orange, this is the one that we found what was believed to be the only tree left,” said Schuenemeyer as he pointed to a group of trees in pots.

He explains that the Colorado Orange apple was a popular variety in the late 1800s, but until they found and grafted one remaining specimen, it was on the verge of total extinction.

“The goal is not that it is sitting in a museum, the goal is to have it out being a relevant crop again that anyone can get an apple and try it,” said Schuenemeyer.

It is estimated that in the late 1800s, there were more than 17,000 varieties of apples grown in the United States. Now, there are only about 6,000. There is no real idea of what happened to the remaining 11,000, and if there are any left.

But, a few of those lost varieties have now been found. Hiding in plain sight, in places like the Gold Medal Apple Orchard in McElmo Canyon.

“To find those living links to history, to take that and pass it forward is an amazing thing to get to do,” said Schuenemeyer

Schuenemeyer finds old orchards across the west, grafts trees, sends them for DNA testing, and identifies the apples.

And to continue the work, MORP sells apple trees that you may not find anywhere else.

Part of a plan to revitalize old orchards, like the Gold Medal Orchard, which only has a handful of mature trees left. Bringing back apples that were thought to be long gone.

Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project will sell apple trees on Saturday June 17, 2017 in Cortez.

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