Bumper Crop at LDS Farms, Orchards Will Help Feed Those in Need

Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer

  • 1 August 2016

Sister Chris Williams, a Church-service missionary, picks peaches at the North Ogden peach orchard in Ogden, Utah, Tuesday, August 16, 2016.  Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

NORTH OGDEN, UTAH

A warning if you’re offered a peach grown at the Church’s North Ogden peach orchard: don’t take a bite without first grabbing an extra-strength, double-ply, high-absorbent paper towel. The juicy peaches here can make a sticky mess of your face and fingers.

The thousands of people who volunteer each summer to pick the fruit from the orchard’s 7,000 peach trees take an understandable pride in their sweet, plentiful harvest. The peaches are blue-ribbon worthy.

But the North Ogden peach orchard is about more than high-quality produce. The harvest offers an annual opportunity for many to help people from all corners of the globe who are hungry and in need.

“Those who volunteer each year at this orchard understand true religion,” said orchard manager Bruce Liston.

Elder Craig Williams, a Church-service missionary, sorts peaches by size at the North Ogden peach orchard in Ogden, Utah, Tuesday, August 16, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Grace Christoffersen, 7, stretches to grab a peach at the North Ogden peach orchard in Ogden, Tuesday, August 16, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Sweet corn is dumped in a semi trailer for transport in West Point, Utah, Tuesday, August 16, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Pure religion, of course, is about visiting “the fatherless and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27). At the North Ogden orchard—and at dozens of other Church-owned orchards, farms, and ranches—pure religion is found wherever a volunteer helps produce and harvest healthful food for people they likely don’t know and will likely never meet.

The volunteers don’t work alone.

“The Lord has really blessed us,” said Brother Liston as he looks across the 27-acre orchard that is expected to yield more than 750,000 pounds of peaches this summer.

It’s harvest season all across the Western Hemisphere, and Church agricultural properties are once again in full bloom and blessing lives. Almost every day during August, crates of peaches, tomatoes, squash, cabbage, beans, cucumbers, onions, corn, and other fruits and vegetables grown at the orchards and farms are shipped directly to the bishops’ storehouse. The produce is on the tables of families in need or being processed at canneries within hours of being picked.

Most of the goods are grown at large operations like the North Ogden orchard. But many smaller properties, such as the nearby West Point Crop Farm, make valuable contributions under the skilled direction of service missionaries such as Elder Bruce Brown.

In addition to the bishops’ storehouse, the Church-grown food is shared with local food banks and with humanitarian partners such as Catholic Community Services. Burt Johnson has managed the West Point farm for more than a decade. Still, the annual corn, onion, and wheat harvest for Brother Johnson and his team of volunteers at the farm is never commonplace.

“We do the best we can each year knowing most of what we raise goes to help whoever needs it,” he said.

The work is never easy. “And it’s been a struggle with the heat we’ve had this summer,” he notes as he walks through tall rows of sweet corn.

Still, the Lord accepts the volunteers’ offerings and blesses His properties.

“This orchard,” said Brother Liston, “can do things that no [commercial] orchard can do.”

Elder Craig Williams, a Church-service missionary, picks peaches at the North Ogden peach orchard in Ogden, Utah, Tuesday, August 16, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Harvested peaches are seen at the North Ogden peach orchard in Ogden, Tuesday, August 16, 2016. Harvest from this orchard goes to the Boise, Idaho, cannery and the bishops’ storehouse, among other locations. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Lainey Christoffersen, 5, reacts as she drops a peach at the North Ogden peach orchard in Ogden, Tuesday, August 16, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Volunteers pick peaches at the North Ogden Peach Orchard in Ogden, Tuesday, August 16, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Bruce Brown picks a cantaloupe at the Harrisville Utah Crops Project in Harrisville, Tuesday, August 16, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Bruce Brown picks a zucchini at the Harrisville Utah Crops Project in Harrisville, Tuesday, August 16, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Bruce Brown looks for sweet corn at the Harrisville Utah Crops Project in Harrisville, Tuesday, August 16, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Bruce Brown looks for sweet corn at the Harrisville Utah Crops Project in Harrisville, Tuesday, August 16, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Bruce Brown picks an ear of sweet corn at the Harrisville Utah Crops Project in Harrisville, Tuesday, August 16, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Bruce Brown admires the sweet corn crop at the Harrisville Utah Crops Project in Harrisville, Tuesday, August 16, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Dennis Drayer pulls weeds in one of the seven rows of vaquero onions that his ward maintains at West Point Crops in West Point, Utah, Tuesday, August 16, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Dennis Drayer pulls weeds in one of the seven rows of vaquero onions that his ward maintains at West Point Crops in West Point, Utah, Tuesday, August 16, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Burt Johnson inspects the crop for the corn smut fungus at West Point Crops in West Point, Utah, Tuesday, August 16, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Burt Johnson harvests sweet corn at West Point Crops in West Point, Utah, Tuesday, August 16, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Burt Johnson harvests sweet corn at West Point Crops in West Point, Utah, Tuesday, August 16, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Burt Johnson harvests sweet corn at West Point Crops in West Point, Utah, Tuesday, August 16, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Burt Johnson inspects a load of sweet corn at West Point Crops in West Point, Utah, Tuesday, August 16, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Sweet corn is seen at West Point Crops in West Point, Utah, Tuesday, August 16, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.