BETA

Peach harvest, a blessing for all seasons

Church-owned orchard yields bumper crop

PLEASANT VIEW, UTAH

More than three decades ago, Kerry Norris and a troop of fellow Boy Scouts presented Elder LeGrand Richards of the Quorum of the Twelve with a bushel of peaches they had picked at the Church-owned North Ogden Orchard.

Volunteers work in the shipping area of the North Ogden Orchard. Hundreds of thousands pounds of peaches will be shipped from the orchard to local Church canneries.
Volunteers work in the shipping area of the North Ogden Orchard. Hundreds of thousands pounds of peaches will be shipped from the orchard to local Church canneries. Photo: Photo by Jason Swensen

Brother Norris is now in his 40s and serving as a member of his stake high council. Each year he returns to the orchard and works alongside hundreds of others during the annual peach harvest. "If you want the blessings of the Lord you have to get out and serve," he told the Church News as he stood high on his toes to reach a fat, fuzzy peach.

The fruit harvested from this 27-acre orchard could compete for a blue ribbon at any state fair. It's quality produce. But it won't be found in the grocery store or roadside fruit stand. Instead, the half-million pounds of peaches harvested here each year are shipped to local Church canneries. The canned peaches will then be shipped to bishops' storehouses throughout the world and donated to people in need.

Sign at the entrance of the North Ogden Orchard signals a busy day of peach picking. The annual harvest at the 27-acre orchard runs from several weeks in the late summer, yielding fruit that will bless the lives of families in need worldwide.
Sign at the entrance of the North Ogden Orchard signals a busy day of peach picking. The annual harvest at the 27-acre orchard runs from several weeks in the late summer, yielding fruit that will bless the lives of families in need worldwide. Photo: Photo by Jason Swensen

There are more than 4,000 mature peach trees in the orchard, and each tree annually produces some 150 pounds of fruit. Raising and harvesting peaches is labor intensive. Before the first buds arrive each spring, the trees have to be pruned and thinned by an army of volunteers from six stakes in North Ogden and Pleasant View. Thousands more are later enlisted to pick the ripe peaches. The peach harvest in the North Ogden Orchard typically begins in mid-August and ends in early September.

"The role our volunteers play in harvesting the peaches is extremely important — they are the fuel that makes this operation run," said orchard manager Bruce Liston.

Brother Liston said volunteers are reliable and abundant because they have testimonies of helping others. "This is our faith at work," he said, surveying the lush orchards.

North Ogden Utah Ben Lomond Stake President Doyle Obray climbs a ladder to pick peaches at the North Ogden Orchard.
North Ogden Utah Ben Lomond Stake President Doyle Obray climbs a ladder to pick peaches at the North Ogden Orchard. Photo: Photo by Jason Swensen
Kerry Norris has picked peaches at the Church-owned North Ogden Orchard for decades.
Kerry Norris has picked peaches at the Church-owned North Ogden Orchard for decades. Photo: Photo by Jason Swensen

North Ogden Utah Ben Lomond Stake President Doyle Obray serves as the agent stake president for the North Ogden Orchard. The members of the participating stakes, he said, regard this orchard as sacred ground. "They know that land has been dedicated for welfare."

Working at the orchard is especially popular for families, added President Obray. A day spent picking peaches on a Church welfare farm or orchard teaches priceless gospel principles such as Christ-like service, the work ethic and the law of the harvest.

Corbin Wessman, who recently returned home from a mission to Finland, volunteers Aug. 24 at the annual peach harvest in the North Ogden Orchard. Members from six stakes in northern Utah help with the picking.
Corbin Wessman, who recently returned home from a mission to Finland, volunteers Aug. 24 at the annual peach harvest in the North Ogden Orchard. Members from six stakes in northern Utah help with the picking. Photo: Photo by Jason Swensen
A service missionary at the North Ogden Orchard uses a tractor to haul a bin filled with peaches.  Missionaries play an essential role during the annual harvest.
A service missionary at the North Ogden Orchard uses a tractor to haul a bin filled with peaches. Missionaries play an essential role during the annual harvest. Photo: Photo by Jason Swensen

"We've talked a lot in our family about what it means to serve others," said Jonathan Giatras, who was accompanied on a recent picking day by his two sons, Bradley, 9, and Tanner, 8.

"People who don't have enough food will eat these peaches," added young Bradley.

Thirteen-year-old Sydney Colledge and her fellow Beehive, Elizabeth Evans, said they were fine giving up their Saturday morning to help others in need. "It's important that we serve," said Sydney.

Travis Rose tosses down ripe peaches to youth volunteers waiting below. The harvest draws workers of all ages.
Travis Rose tosses down ripe peaches to youth volunteers waiting below. The harvest draws workers of all ages. Photo: Photo by Jason Swensen
Jonathan Giatras was joined at the annual peach harvest at the North Ogden Orchard by his two sons, from left, Tanner, 8, and Bradley, 9.
Jonathan Giatras was joined at the annual peach harvest at the North Ogden Orchard by his two sons, from left, Tanner, 8, and Bradley, 9. Photo: Photo by Jason Swensen

Elder George Evans may not dress in typical missionary attire. As a service missionary assigned to the orchard, he sports a baseball cap and a long-sleeved work shirt as he welcomes volunteers to the orchard and tutors them on the ins-and-outs of peach picking. Still, he knows he's involved in a sacred work. Lives will be blessed because of what's happening in the North Ogden Orchard.

"This is the Lord's orchard," he said. "We witness miracles happening every day."

[email protected]