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Part 5: Green Living On An All-Natural Orchard

"My Address Is" is a Utah Public Radio series exploring Utah issues associated with how and where we live. This is part 5 of 6.

“My name is Lorin Harrison and my name is Ali Harrison, and our address is Paradise Valley Orchard.”

Paradise Valley Orchard is one of the only pick-it-yourself orchards in Utah. People come from around the United States come to personally pick apples off the trees.

Through their naturally grown orchard, which includes 250 apple trees, a three-quarter acre garden, a food dehydrator, rabbit fur clothing, a commercial juicer, and chickens, Ali and Lorin say they try to practice green living day-to-day.

Ali runs the orchard with her husband despite both of them working two jobs to pay the bills.

“Our effort here is to be sustainable for ourselves. 75 to 80 percent of what we eat we try to grow here on the property," Ali said. "We like to trade things, we trade vegetables for eggs and dairy and cheese. So, I think trading is a way to be sustainable.”

Ali said the orchard is all naturally grown.

“We’re not certified organic, so you have to be careful about the term because they don’t like you saying you’re organic if you haven’t done the certification," Ali said. "What we tell people is that we grow everything naturally."

She said that includes no added chemicals and no non-organic pesticides.

Regardless, Lorin said killing off bugs with chemicals is not always beneficial.

“Organic is something we do for our own convictions," Lorin said. "We try to keep a little more biodiversity in the orchard with the beneficial insects that take care of the bugs. When you spray something with a chemical to kill it, you then take on the work of what you killed. If you kill 'beneficials,' like ladybugs, then you don't have to work harder to kill things like aphids.”

The Lorin and Ali juice the majority of the apples they grown on their five acre orchard.

Ali said there are hoops food producers have to jump through to become certified as organic.

“We may — I guess at some point in the future — do the organic certification; it’s a lot of work and it takes years," she said. "When we bought this orchard, it was not anywhere near organic, pesticide or chemical free and it takes years for those chemicals to get out of the soil. When you do become certified organic, they test your soil and can say, ‘you are free of chemicals.’”

Because both Ali and Lorin grew up in health conscience families, they said the number one reason they go to such lengths to eat naturally is because health is one of their biggest concerns. 

“I don’t want to consume chemicals, I don’t want to eat an apple that has been trucked in from Argentina," Ali said. "I don’t know what’s on them, I don’t know how long they sat in a warehouse. It is the same with any produce or any meat or anything that you buy in the store, it’s coated in chemicals and it is just not good for you."

Lorin said there are at least ten different chemicals on every non-organic apple that one would typically buy in a grocery store.

Ali said while it is important to shop local and naturally, she believes the concept of sustainability is a dream that can never be fully obtained.

Juice in gallon jugs from Paradise Valley Orchard.
"The reality now is people are living in a world with car payments and mortgage payments," Ali said. "My husband and I both work outside jobs to pay the bills. In an ideal world, we would be able to live off the grid and not have an electrical payment or a car payment. But you have to have a vehicle, you have to get around in a modern world; it’s hard. I think it’s just baby steps.”

One of their goals regarding the Paradise Valley Orchard is to provide options to those who don’t have access to organic food in their backyard, because they understand that not everyone can live sustainably.  

“I believe that there has to be small farms like this in order to supply the people who, for instance, live in a condo and don’t have the skills necessary to grow their own food," Lorin said. "Most of the world is actually like that."

The organic label comes with the assumption that the food was grown locally, Lorin said. He adds that is not always the case. There are some brands in grocery stores that are considered organic but were produced in Mexico — transport of these items can be just as bad for the environment as pesticides.

Through their local orchard, the Harrisons hope to minimize the distance of how far food travels from the farm to the plate.

“My goal is to bring people out here; let’s bring people to the farm," Ali said. "Come out here and pick your own veggies. It doesn’t get more local than picking your carrots out of the ground."

The store that Ali and Lorin run out of their orchard.

She said she hopes to encourage people to be healthier and also to teach others the beauty of living a simple life.

“Not being so into consumerism and buying and thinking that you need all this stuff," she added. "Just living more simply and more consciously of what you’re eating and what you’re wasting and using. We are only on this earth a short amount of time, let’s make the most of it. Let’s be as healthy as we can. We are stewards of the environment, our job is to protect what we’ve got."