Montezuma County has a secret — mighty fruit orchards that once dominated the southwest Colorado landscape.

Now a McElmo Canyon grower is trying to revive heirloom fruits once grown in the county and bring back what he says is a forgotten part of the county’s past.

Jude Schuenemeyer and his wife, Addie, are co-founders of the Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project. Jude Schuenemeyer says he wants to propagate rare fruit and vegetable genetics found in Montezuma County.

Montezuma County, and McElmo Canyon in particular, was the premier spot for orchard development in the early 1900s. In 1914, Colorado was awarded three Gold Medals in fruit production from the World Fair, and two of those went to orchards in McElmo.