Dec 17, 2020Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project receives USDA ARS grant
Faced with the challenge of using 50,000 bushels of apples from vintage trees, 80 to 130 years old, which would normally rot on the ground or be eaten by foraging animals, Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project (MORP) based in Colorado became interested in learning how to bring heirloom apples to new markets.
To achieve their vision, MORP applied for and was awarded a USDA Agriculural Marketing Service Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP) Planning Grant in 2016 for $42,400 through Mancos Valley Resources to conduct a feasibility study and create a business plan for mobile juice processing.
MORP conducted a needs assessment and feasibility study to gain a clear understanding of how to develop an apple juicing and cider business and developed a business plan. Organizing and training MORP volunteers and Americorps Team service crews addressed the challenges of harvest and labor while food safety practices were established to meet regulatory requirements.
As a result, MORP began operating an income-generating mobile juicing and hard cider unit using leased equipment:
- Income is now generated for thirty-five fruit growers.
- Each season produces approximately 2,200 gallons of raw Montezuma Valley Heritage Blend Apple Juice earning net seasonal income upwards of $3,700, which has been reinvested back into the project.
- Apples that would have been wasted have instead become a value-added product, helping to meet the local demand for juice made from Colorado apples.
- Juice is sold to cider makers, food hubs and other local enterprises helping to meet the demand of consumers across four counties as well as the region’s agritourists.
– USDA Agriculural Marketing Service