“Las Vegas: all the amenities of modern society in a habitat unfit to grow a tomato.” Jason Love
In case you didn’t know, Las Vegas — with all its neon signs and bright lights — is in the middle of a desert. You know — hot, dry, and very little precipitation desert. So, it may surprise some to learn that Las Vegas is also home to Gilcrease Orchard.
Situated on 60 acres in the Las Vegas Valley, you can find a variety of fruit and vegetables at Gilcrease Orchard (open seasonally).
How can it be that an orchard could thrive in the middle of the desert for 90 years? Well, it all began in 1920 when the Gilcrease family — parents Elda and Leonard and young children Ted and Bill moved to Las Vegas. Although farming was not their first career choice, Leonard and Elda decided to purchase 900 acres of farm land that also included an artisan natural spring with money Elda had inherited.
Enduring hardship such as the difficulty of working land in the Las Vegas Valley and the Great Depression of 1929 proved too much for Elda and Leonard’s marriage, and it ended in divorce in 1930. However, Elda continued to work the land before relinquishing control to her sons until her death in 1968. Over time, the 900 acres was reduced to the 60 acres now managed by the Gilcrease Orchard Foundation.
Both Ted and Bill also are now deceased, yet the Gilcrease Orchard Foundation continues to carry out the mandate to “first, preserve the Orchard, second, beautify it, and third, provide educational and recreational activities for the public.” To assist the nonprofit foundation to continue the desires of Gilcrease family, it solicits financial donations through corporate, family, and individual sponsorship.
While Gilcrease Orchard offers a variety of produce, its signature merchandise is the cider. The Gilcrease cider is made by heat pasteurization and without added sweeteners. Using yellow and early red gala apples that are neither waxed or sprayed with pesticides, the orchard produces a cider they claim is naturally sweet and robust. According to the Web site, within minutes of the apples being pressed, the cider is bottled and frozen for freshness and to extend the shelf life. Buyers receive cider that is still frozen and should drink it within two weeks of thawing.
Because Gilcrease Orchard’s supply is dependent upon what is in season and what is ready for harvest, weekly offerings will differ. It is a “u-pick” orchard, so visitors are cautioned to wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to walk to the produce of their choosing. Pet owners are asked to leave their furry friends at home because pets are not allowed in the orchard for food safety reasons.
Visit Gilcrease Orchard Web site for information about their day camp or how to schedule a field trip. While there, you will find a couple of recipes and can look at the photo gallery. On the Home Page, there is a list of the weekly produce available for purchase, along with their prices. If you are in the Las Vegas Valley area, consider taking some time to experience the fresh food and fresh air of Gilcrease Orchard.
7800 N Tenaya Way, Las Vegas, NV 89131
[Post written August 27, 2018]
[Photos taken October 3, 2019]