BOZEMAN – Montana State University Extension has organized a statewide program to recognize, preserve and propagate historic Montana orchards.
In the early days of settling, shipping produce was difficult and expensive, so most Montanans grew their own fruit. Homesteaders planted apple, pear, apricot, plum and cherry trees. These fruit trees and small orchards provided fresh produce for farms, ranches and rural communities. Some of these orchards still exist and hold answers to rebuilding localized fruit production.
The first step in the Montana Heritage Orchard program is to locate living orchards.
“These stands are found in little sanctuaries, located off the beaten path. Some hold varieties that may be over 100 years old and still producing,” said Toby Day, MSU Extension horticulturist. “Imagine what we can learn from these prized trees. We’re asking producers, farmers and ranchers, historians, nursery owners and retired people all to think about where these orchards may be and get in contact with us.”
To be considered a “backyard heritage orchard,” there must be at least six living trees that are 50 years or older. To be considered a “farmstead heritage orchard,” there must be at least 10 living trees that are 50 years or older.
Qualified orchards will be placed on an interactive map administered through MSU Extension. A website will provide viewers with information about the history of each orchard and a list of identifiable cultivars. MSU Extension will work closely with orchard landowners to explore opportunities for tourism, preservation and/or propagation.
Landowners who would like to be part of the Montana Heritage Orchard program should contact their local Extension office or complete a questionnaire online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/RCX23J8.
Contact: Brent Sarchet, MSU Extension agent in Lewis and Clark County, (406) 447-8350, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Toby Day, MSU Extension horticulture specialist, email@example.com, (406) 994-6523.