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Climate change is becoming more apparent here in the Roaring Fork Valley. From smoke to drought, we're still understanding how it all affects our community. But how do trees fit into the big picture? Our news team is trying to answer that question by examining the unique relationship between our valley's trees and the climate crisis. Support for In the Woods comes from The Longview Foundation of Minnesota.

Fruit trees planted by homesteaders bear fruit for local food producers — and may hold clues for fighting climate change

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Kirsten Dobroth
Aspen Public Radio
Cooper Means, agricultural director at the Farm Collaborative at Cozy Point Ranch, has been grafting fruit trees, pictured here, from the Roaring Fork Valley's fruit trees planted by homesteaders in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. He plans to plant them as part of an agroforestry operation at the site.

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.


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