Miracles Happen in the Lord’s Orchard
By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer
- Volunteers from nearby stakes help harvest a half-million pounds of peaches each year from the Church’s North Ogden orchard.
- Each of the 4,000 mature peach trees in the 27-acre orchard produces some 150 pounds of quality fruit, all of which is shipped to canneries to feed the needy.
- Volunteers learn gospel principles such as Christlike service, the work ethic, and the law of the harvest.
“This is the Lord’s orchard. We witness miracles happening every day.” — Elder George Evans, service missionary
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.
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 a 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.
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 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.”
Jonathan Giatras is joined at the annual peach harvest in the North Ogden orchard on August 24 by his sons, Tanner, 8, and Bradley, 9. Photo by Jason Swensen.
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 Christlike service, the work ethic, and the law of the harvest.
“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.
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.”