Heritage fruit tree project gets $10,000 boost

By John Colson

Sopris Sun Correspondent

The effort to identify and care for heritage fruit trees in the Roaring Fork Valley recently got a major boost, in the form of a $10,000 grant from the Kay Brunnier Tree Fund, which will be used to survey fruit trees in the Carbondale and Missouri Heights area this summer and start a program aimed at caring for and harvesting the fruits from those trees into the future.

Brunnier, who lives in Carbondale, provided the funding through the Carbondale Tree Board as part of a matching-grant program designed to encourage the planting of trees in general around town and around the valley.

As for the fruit of all this effort, so to speak, it at least partly will go toward feeding the needy in the valley through the LIFT-UP program, which has arranged to route the fruits into the organization’s food bank.

The project of identifying and caring for heritage fruit trees in this region, which has been around for more than 10 years, represents the combined efforts of a variety of private and public groups, including the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute (CRMPI), Ecosystem Design, LiveWell Colorado, Colorado Soil Systems and the Heritage Fruit Guild.

The latter two partner organizations are the work of Jimmy Dula, who in 2009 was an intern at CRMPI and who, since 2012, has been working with CRMPI founder Jerome Osentowski and his architect partner, Michael Thompson, in keeping the Heritage Fruit Tree Project (HFTP) active and current.

“It’s not my brainchild,” said Dula, referring to the HFTP, the credit for which goes to Osentowski and Thompson.

But, he said, “We’re moving it along a bit,” giving additional credit to Lisa DiNardo, former horticulturist for the town of Basalt, now working for the town of New Castle and helping Dula with the HFTP project on weekends.

He also cited the Carbondale Tree Board (made up of volunteers JoAnne Teeple, Kim Bock, Dan Bullock, Connor Coleman and Shaun Rourke, along with Trustee Katrina Byars, liaison from the town board). Carbondale’s urban forester, David Coon, works with the tree board in helping to keep the HFTP going.

Thompson, whose main role with CRMPI these days is designing and building greenhouses for customers around the U.S., in turn credited Dula’s “youthful energy” as the motivating force behind the HFTP today.

Among other projects, Dula will be in charge of a fruit-tree-pruning-and-care workshop this Saturday, April 4, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Sustainable Settings alternative agriculture center south of Carbondale on Highway 133.

Admission to the workshop costs $25, and besides instruction on pruning and other matters by Dula, it will be facilitated by Vince Urbina, community forester with the Colorado State Forest Service, who is a friend of DiNardo’s.

“We’re accomplishing a lot of things,” Dula remarked in a telephone interview on Tuesday, meaning the identification of heritage fruit trees, the pruning and caring for the trees to ensure their survival and growth, and the use of the fruit that comes from those trees.

He predicted that the summertime survey will result in the identification of dozens of such trees in and around Carbondale, and many more trees in the broader region.

“I’m thinking we’ll probably get up to 300-500,” he said, in the area that includes Carbondale, Satank and Missouri Heights.

Following identification, Dula said, the group plans to “map” the trees using a GIS system, and then to graft from the trees onto root stock to preserve the original tree’s genetic vitality.

Ultimately, the HTFP team expects to begin a planting program under which area residents can identify a fruit tree they’d like to have in their yard, and a crew from the HTFP will bring it to them and get it planted.

Those interested in learning more about the HTFP, its partners and its projects can call Dula at 903-746-3520, e-mail him at heritagefruit@gmail.com or go to the website at heritagefruitguild.com.