Fruit trees planted by homesteaders bear fruit for local food producers — and may hold clues for fighting climate change
When homesteaders settled the Roaring Fork Valley in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, many brought fruit trees with them on their journey west. Some of those trees still thrive in parts of the valley today, and some local food producers are using grafts from old trees to start new, sustainable agricultural operations. They are also preserving many heirloom varieties of fruit trees in the process.
Fruit trees are unusual in higher-elevation mountain communities, but local farmers such as Cooper Means explain that local trees have a unique advantage.
“I think the homesteaders probably planted a lot of fruit trees that didn’t make it, and most likely they’d take those fruit trees out and grafted another one,” said Means. “So, there’s been over a hundred-year-long experimental process and selection process for trees that do well at this exact location.”
As part of Aspen Public Radio’s series "In the Woods" — which examines the link between trees and climate change — arts-and-culture reporter Kirsten Dobroth looks at how the valley’s old fruit trees might offer some solutions in the fight against the climate crisis.
Support for "In the Woods" comes from The Longview Foundation of Minnesota.