This year, fieldwork conducted during the course examined the culture and traditions of family-run orchards in Utah Valley. Participants interviewed active and retired orchardists, observed and photographed aspects of orchard work, and explored the importance of orchards to the people who operate and work in them, and well as their importance to the region’s larger population.
The stories of the fruit orchards are an integral part of the history of Utah Valley. Over the past three weeks, thirteen students from around the United States and two from Cairo, Egypt have received extensive ethnographic training from staff members of the American Folklife Center and professors and instructors from Brigham Young University. As part of their training, the students were divided into five groups of three and then invited to select an aspect of orchard life that they wished to study. The ideas, which are expressed in this exhibition, were diverse and reinforced the richness and the pervasiveness of orchards in what is rapidly becoming a suburban county.
The groups interviewed over thirty individuals ranging from those who are or have been actively involved in a working orchard, to those who volunteered at Church orchards, to those who tend trees in their yards. Photos, tapes, notes, and logs created by the students will be housed in the Wilson Folklore Archives in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections.
While many bemoan the loss of orchards, our research indicates that families actively work to maintain the values, ethics, traditions, and use of food that are part of the orchard heritage. Some who were interviewed have built homes on the property that their fathers once farmed and maintain a tree or two to remind them of the old days. Others have found a new hobby in planting small backyard orchards for food and aesthetic reasons.
Some values arise from working the land: the importance of team work, appreciation for the labor that goes into growing a single apple, a sense of accomplishment when the work is done, a delight in the freshness of fruit. Other values are mandated by the Church or were shaped by the pioneer experience; values of family, community, self-reliance, work, service, and an inheritance are inextricably intertwined in local experience.
“Some farmers say, their best crop is their land.” “When you grow a fruit orchard, you’ve accomplished something.” – Harley Gillman
“Part of what we gave out children here was being a part of things and seeing things got done.” – Larry Arnoldsen
“There’s a feeling of satisfaction in doing something for somebody else.” – Charles Anderson
“Church values are well set; it’s more the (orchard) traditions that are lost.” – Jay Wallace
“The Church is…our life, our guidelines and Christ is our example…My parents are the most Christ-like people I know…My kids look at my parents as their heroes.” – Dawn Jones
“We can work. A lot of our friends couldn’t last a day in an orchard…You have that knowledge that you can get things done well.” – Heather Jones
“I think service work is a lot more fun…when you do it for service and they aren’t paying you any money, it just seems more important.” – Trevor Slade
Many fruit growers sell their fruit directly to the public from their yards, stands and permanent stores. Fruit stands vary, but common themes abound:
“I think the stand is the best way the orchard owners can make money.” – Raul Chavez
“Back 10-15 years ago, when everybody canned, we turned a profit but not anymore.” – Ann Stratton Perry
“We do it as a family, that’s just something we do.” – Scott Smith
“You go back to the same stands all the time ‘cause you know which ones will bring you good, fresh stuff.” – Kathryn Richardson Lunt [customer]
“My mother would start taking fresh-baked goods to Allred’s as the season started, to ensure, in her mind, that she would be at the top of their ‘call list’ when the first crop of peaches came in.” – JaNae Brown Haas [customer]
“To have a few people say ‘we really like your fruit, we buy it here every year,’ is the best blessing there is for putting up with the hard work and risk.” – Rey Allred
“We come back when Ruben is here, because the fruit is good, and we like to tease Ruben about his beautiful eyes!” – Customers about Ruben Contreras
“My daughters want to keep the orchard, and that’s all I want to do, to farm as long as I can. So we will keep this business, absolutely.” – Rey Allred
“The future of the orchards here in Orem is ending. My brother might move his orchard south, but I will still sell his fruit at a stand here in Orem.” – Raul Chavez
Although a majority of Utah Valley’s orchards are disappearing, the legacy of the families who nurtured them lives on through their stories.
The Reason Why
“We hope to keep it going even though we can’t make money off it…for my dad it was a livelihood, but for us it’s just nostalgia almost. I could earn much more…and with a lot less work; but, like they say, it kind of gets in your blood.” – Stephen Wadley
“For us, I think we really still love it, but we see another side. It doesn’t look quite as romantic to us…as it does to the next generation, because they don’t know how much hard work it is.” – LaRayne Wadley Hart
“As much as our mother and father have given us the desire for [formal] education, our father has given us a love for the land and the farm and the space that was ours.” – Mary Wadley Jackson
“I really think that it’s just invaluable – the time that you get to spend with your kids…I like the interaction that you’re just there with you kids; I like working beside them. One thing that brings us together is that we’re accomplishing something together. In our case, when we sell fruit, we have raised it together, grown it together, and sold it; [all this] takes us working together.” – Tim & Natalie Crandall
“I think the family history, without the orchard there, will die out with my kids because they didn’t have the farm. They don’t know all the things that it took to work on that farm and what was expected of them to help out because they don’t have the hands-on experience.” – Rodney Pulham
“The part we like is the challenge of having [the land] still be an orchard, when other people say we can’t make it. That’s kind of a fun challenge, to know that as a family we accomplished it; it’s kind of a whole family affair.” – Tim Crandall
Utah Valley residents possess a long tradition of preserving, preventing, celebrating, and consuming the bountiful crop from the orchards. Beginning with cherries and ending with apples, a variety of fruits including apricots, nectarines, peaches, and pears are harvested. Bottling, juicing, drying, making jams and jellies, and creating fruit leather are popular uses for fruit. However, many families also look forward to earing and cooking with the fresh fruit. Cobblers and crisps are extremely popular. One local cook whose family loves her Dutch oven peach cobbler claims that she has no real recipe and just adds what looks like the right amount. While she uses the rule of thumb that everything takes about an hour to cook in a Dutch oven, she also explains that you can tell by the smell when the cobbler is ready.
Alice J. Walker
“There are no preservatives. It’s sealed. It’s healthy. You can control the sugar content in it. The riper our fruit is the less sugar you have to use. It tastes good. I think it tastes better. Well, I know it tastes better. Besides the fact it’s freshly done.”
“We used canned goods to prepare deserts, mostly it was just eaten – we almost always had a quart of fruit on the table – we had pies, but mostly just the bottles of fruit – we had a lot of jams and jellies.”
“I’ve never bought a bottle of jam in my life. We give it away, but we don’t sell it.”
“I’m a really good cook. That is one thing that I did learn from my mother and grandmother, was to cook.”
Julie sun dries apricot pits. The rounded pits are not edible, but one variety produces longer pits with a longer point on the end. Those pits are edible. “If you dry the pits and then crack them open just like a nut inside tastes like an almond.”
“I was raised in California and knew nothing about bottled fruit. The first year we were married my mother-in-law gave me many bottles of fruit. The next summer she asked for her bottle back. I had thrown all of them away. I thought they were disposable like the cans fruit comes in at the grocery store.”
Over a century and a half ago, Brigham Young encouraged Mormon settlers to make the desert blossom as a rose. One response was the planting of fruit orchards. In the 20th century the Church began planting welfare orchards as well. Today, Mark Hansen manages West Mountain Orchard in Payson for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The orchard generates money and goods for welfare storehouses. These goods are distributed through a well-defined system to Church members and victims of disasters throughout the world. Once the primary landscape feature, orchards are almost gone. West Mountain Orchard, the last welfare orchard in Utah Valley, closes after this year’s harvest. Asked about difficult times in the orchard, Hansen quoted the Biblical saying “This too shall pass.”
The LDS Church is not the only Church involved with orchards. St Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Orem relies on parishioners to maintain their orchard. Since 1999, Roberta Casteneda has supervised volunteers in the orchard. $3000-5000 has been raised annually for the Church’s building fund by selling peaches in the Church parking lot. The previous pastor, Fr. Flegge, maintained the orchard primarily out of dedication to beauty. It is also cultivated to continue an important local tradition and to honor the parish’s patron Saint, St. Francis, who llived in poverty, loved God’s creations, and says in Canticle of the Sun, “Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.” The Catholic orchard will likely dwindle to a few trees, as the site is used to build further Church structures.