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May 13, 2016 by Laura Phagan

Historic apple orchard receives grant to restore

Sinks Canyon Center apple orchard

A historic apple orchard located at Central Wyoming College’s Sinks Canyon Center has received funds to help replenish deteriorating heritage apple trees that can be grown in Wyoming. CWC was awarded a grant for more than $24,000 from the Wyoming Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crops program. In addition, CWC also received more than $1,000 from the Popo Agie Conservation District Resource Enhancement Program.

Funds will allow for planting of new apples and other fruit trees, pruning and spraying existing heritage apple trees, improving the irrigation system, constructing a deer-proof fence around the perimeter of the orchard and adding educational signage about the project.

In addition, there will be community workshops on orchard restoration, tree grafting and tree planting. The project will also provide internship opportunities for CWC students interested in the project.

Our main focus is to restore the orchard. The current condition of the trees up there is poor and the trees are more than 100 years old. So we want to reestablish those trees and make sure we don't lose those heritage trees. ”

Ken Colovich, director of CWC Lander Outreach and project coordinator

Of the original 2,500 apple tress only about 50 remain.

Project leaders Colovich and Joanne Slingerland, CWC Lander Outreach coordinator, will also recruit community volunteers for many of the project activities. Another important aspect of the project is the partnership with Dr. Steve Miller, a University of Wyoming botanist. Dr. Miller has extensive experience and knowledge in grafting of heritage apple trees, the history of apple production in Wyoming and historic orchard restoration. He has propagated nearly 50 trees from grafts of existing heritage trees at the Sinks Canyon Center. These trees will be replanted at the orchard during the duration of the project. Dr. Miller has conducted workshops throughout Wyoming and says there is intense interest from apple producers for propagating trees from the Sinks Canyon Center heritage trees.

“These trees have proven their survivability in Wyoming's challenging climatic conditions,” Slingerland said. “This project will also provide useful information for owners of old and deteriorating orchards in our region, who are interested in restoring the health and vigor of their trees.”