PAYSON, Utah – Pressed next to the foothills east of Payson are about 600 acres of peaches, apples, and tart cherries grown by Allred Orchards. Now being managed by the fifth generation of fruit farmers, the family carries the tradition that has guided their farm for many years – Living to Farm, Farming to Live.
While the farm now sits in the southern end of Utah County, which now has the lion’s share of fruit grown in Utah, the original farm Rey Allred grew up on was established in 1926 off University Avenue in Provo. Now full of apartment complexes, businesses, and within the shadows of Brigham Young University’s LaVell Edwards football stadium, only the original barn built in 1893 remains and serves as the family’s retail outlet.
The parking lot where the football stadium now sits once held a productive pear orchard that Rey would work in his youth.
“I couldn’t play football in high school because we had all these pears to harvest,” said the late Rey Allred in an interview on Utah Valley orchards for Brigham Young University’s library in 2001 by Randy Astle. “That was the only thing that I didn’t like about the fruit business, missing out on high school football!
After completing his horticulture degree from Brigham Young University in 1957, Rey and his wife Mary Carol bought farm ground in Payson and worked both locations while the young trees in the new farm grew into maturity. Rey was anxious to begin farming in the new location because the trees in Provo were beginning to show their age in diminished production, but also because University expansion was imminent.
As land available to farming was disappearing in Provo, the family farm expanded in Payson and grew to include land further west in Payson near West Mountain and also in Genola. As the size of the farm was expanding, so was Rey’s family, which grew to include five children. The oldest two, Becky and Debbie are still involved in the farm today and have children working and managing the farm.
The family continues to grow tart cherries, apples, peaches, nectarines, and more on the farm in Payson. They sell their produce, along with dried cherries and apple juice, at their store in Provo, as well as to grocery stores.
Loving the farm
Talking with the adult Allred children now, you can easily feel the love they have for the farm and the tradition they are proud to carry forward. But it wasn’t always that way. In what is probably typically youthful attitudes, three of Rey’s children – Debbie, Becky, and Brian – actually hated working on the farm and wanted nothing to do with it.
“Becky and I just hated it!” Debbie Cloward, Rey’s daughter shared. “But looking back now, I can see the value of it. I see how much my parents loved the farm and the lifestyle that came with it, and we came to love it too. It’s now having the same effect on our kids.”
Blake Ellsworth (left) grandson of Rey Allred and his son Bryson help sell fruit at the farm stand in Provo.
Other experiences the family learned from help put a proper perspective on life and the challenges that come from growing food. Chief among them was the experience of another fruit farmer in Mapleton that had recently purchased equipment to help warm orchards against the threat of frost. Having misjudged what was needed to run the equipment properly and having lost fruit to an extreme spring frost, the farmer entered his home, had a heart attack, and died from stress.
“I determined it was never going to stress me out that much,” Allred said. “We’ve had our share of the problems that fruit growers have with frost and hail… but those things have to me, become much less important.”
“My dad didn’t worry too much about things he had no control of,” Debbie said. “His mantra on it was, ‘We’ll do better next year.’ He didn’t let those things he couldn’t control affect his mood. I would be sick to my stomach and he would say it was going to be alright.”
Working with family
Even with the great perspective working on the farm brought, the Allred family is like many other families that work together. At times, it could get heated.
“It’s not the same as a family reunion where you put your arms around everybody and say, ‘It’s nice to see you, see you again next year,’” Allred said. “We’re out there yelling at each other; mothers cussing at their kids, screaming because their kids won’t listen to them. I’d yell at the mothers and say, ‘You! Why can’t you control that kid? Make him do what I want him to do?’ [The mothers would respond] ‘You’re his grandpa, you tell him! He won’t listen to me!’ We [had] our share of that.”
Despite the typical challenges that come in working with family, Rey passed a legacy of loving the farm to his children and grandchildren.
The late Rey Allred (right) with his daughter Becky (Allred) Ellsworth in the orchards in Payson.
“He truly loved working on the farm. It wasn’t really working to him, it was his joy,” Debbie said. “He taught each of us to treat our portion of this earth well and to find joy in working on the farm. I fear that as we lose family farms, that we lose some of the lessons that came from working together on the farm as well.”
While the fruit grown by the Allred family has a reputation for being top quality, the lessons learned from experience on the farm may be its true lasting legacy.
Specific product information and harvest schedules for Allred Orchards can be found at allredorchards.com.