Like the last peach on the tree, 3 Squares Produce is still hanging on.
There was a time when Orchard Drive in Bountiful was aptly named. As Bountiful has grown, orchards have dwindled. If you drive through the area, you’ll see an occasional property with remnants of an old orchard or perhaps a hobby orchard. Today, there’s only one professional orchard still in production. It’s run by Jack Wilbur, owner of 3 Squares Produce, a family farming operation with nine plots around Salt Lake and Davis County.
The orchard has been in Jack’s wife Kari’s family for five generations and was known as Larsen Farms before Jack took over the operation in 2009. Kari’s parent’s, Ralph and Shirley, ran the orchard together for 37 years, and continued working on the farm until 2020 (into their 90’s).
The orchard’s story begins with Ralph, a child of 10. His parents, Norman and Bergetta, immigrated to Bountiful from Norway in 1938. During his childhood, his mother, Bergetta, loved looking after the vegetable gardens as well as canning and preserving the food grown on the land. She took great care to tend roses, lilacs, and other flower bushes around the property in addition to the fruit trees. Ralph’s wife Shirley maintained them for another generation, and today Jack and Kari continue to tend the original flower bushes. Now Jack’s son Ian helps with the fruit when he can, and Ian’s son Cameron, who just finished 7th grade, helps water trees on early summer mornings.
Through the years, every spring Shirley would pull out her paper list of people who were interested in receiving fruit and took orders, dialing them one-by-one. Thousands of pounds of fruit were distributed around Davis County each year, significantly contributing to a culture of making jams and preserves.
The orchard has 90 trees — mostly peaches, but also apricot, apple, cherry, pear, plum, and table grapes. Jack remarked, “You’d be amazed at how much fruit a little orchard like this will produce.”
Jack continues the farm operation, but it’s not meant to support the family financially. He’s driven to keep Ralph’s (aged 94) and Shirley’s (aged 93) legacy alive and to allow them to stay at home to see the beautiful trees they’ve known all these years, and so their children and grandchildren can experience the orchard. It’s a place where the family and neighborhood gather; where people can reflect and remember Bountiful’s agricultural roots.
“I started by helping Ralph and Shirley, but it ended up helping me more. It’s fed me in more ways than one. I started doing it and just wanted to do more. I discovered that I like growing food,” Jack says.
The orchard is surrounded by neighbors who appreciate what the Larsen’s have preserved there. They do not want condos. While many other historic orchards have been developed, this orchard holds a special kind of value for the area.
“People tell me they are so grateful it’s still here, that they love to see the trees,” Jack continues. “It matters to people that there’s still a farm here. The community is invested in this place.”
3 Squares Produce had super small beginnings in 2009 with just three backyard plots. They now also grow organic vegetables using donated backyard gardens and fields around Salt Lake and Davis counties, which allows the whole operation to stay in business through a CSA (community-supported agriculture) model.
“We’re bigger than a hobby farm, but not big enough to compete with a giant grower to sell wholesale,” Jack explains. “We fulfill a unique niche for supplying locally-grown, organic fruit and vegetables through our CSA and at the farmers market.”
They sell about 30 shares per season and are one of the most affordable CSAs in Utah. Their boxes are loaded with their locally-grown fruit as well as vegetables, setting them apart from other CSAs. Most other CSAs don’t have fruit, and if they do, they’re often purchased non-locally and/or grown non-organically.
While their 2023 shares are sold out, you can subscribe to their email newsletter to be the first to know when 2024 shares become available. You can also find 3 Squares Produce every Sunday at the Wheeler Farmers Market.
In Jack’s words, “As long as Ralph and Shirley are alive, we will continue to grow food for the neighborhood and our customers. We impact a small number of people, but they are getting food grown with love. That’s important.”