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Manaugh students build apple orchard in Cortez

Project will include garden, hoop house

Students at Manaugh Elementary School broke ground on a 19-tree apple orchard at the school on Monday.

The orchard is the first part of a Montezuma School to Farm Project effort that also will include a garden and hoop house, garden coordinator Danyel Mezzanatto said.

“We’re so excited,” she said.

Manaugh fourth-graders helped plant trees for the orchard Monday, along with the help of high school students from Pennington School in Pennington, New Jersey. School to Farm garden coordinator Patrick Alford attended Pennington School, and his father, Bill, is a teacher at the school.

Bill Alford organizes a spring break service trip for students each year, and this year they chose to come to Cortez, he said.

“We’re learning a lot about a culture we wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to experience,” Bill Alford said.

Their trip also included a visit to Mesa Verde National Park and McElmo Canyon. Pennington School students often take international trips to Italy, Germany and other European locations, so they were excited to travel to a different location, he said.

Also this week, the New Jersey students will be helping build seed tables at Cortez Middle School.

Jude and Addie Schuenemeyer from the Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project donated the trees, some of which are heritage apple trees, Mezzanatto said.

The land that Manaugh school now sits on is thought to have been an apple orchard in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Mezzanatto said. Two homes near the school still have old apple trees located on their property.

This summer, workers from Southwest Conservation Corps will help build the Manaugh School Garden, as they have in the past at other Cortez schools, Mezzanatto said. The garden is funded in part by a grant from Great Outdoors Colorado.

Mezzanatto said she’s glad School to Farm was able to keep the Manaugh garden at the top of its list of priorities. The group had a rocky winter after former director Zoë Nelsen resigned and the organization experienced financial difficulties.

They recovered, though, and were able to raise money to keep the group going through community outreach, Mezzanatto said.

“The community stepped up,” she said.