Story by DEVIN RICHARD DAYLEY
On a sunny, fall day the fallen leaves can be heard crunching underneath your boots. It is the busy time of year again, when peaches slowly go out of season and apples begin to ripen. As you look out across the land, you see nothing but shades of red, yellow, orange, and brown as the leaves shrivel and the trees prepare for winter.
For Clark Burgess — an orchardist, or grower as he calls it — this is a sight he looks forward to each year. As he takes in a breath, he thinks, “I was born to do this.”
Being the only son in a family who owns and operates a thriving orchard in the Alpine, Utah, area, Burgess has made it his calling to take over the family business located 40 minutes south of Salt Lake City. However, he enjoys and finds satisfaction in the work.
Burgess comes from a long line of farmers who previously established Burgess Orchards as a staple of Utah. Clark, the son of Van, who was the son of Edward, who was the son of George, is the fourth generation to grow fruit in the 100-year history.
Burgess was born in 1958, and for him, there was little question in his mind that he would learn what he could and take over the family business one day. “Nothing occurred to me as something else I would do with my life,” Burgess said in a Zoom interview. “Growing up as the only boy of five kids, I knew the future of our orchard depended on me.”
“I quite enjoyed farm life,” Burgess said. ”There was no reason for me to not want to stay on the orchard.”
He studied and went through high school in the area of Utah where he currently resides. He attended American Fork High School in American Fork, a suburb of Alpine. After high school, knowing that his future was at the orchard, he decided to forego his academic future in lieu of gaining the skills required to run a successful orchard.
“I knew that I would end up back here,” Burgess said referring to not attending college. “So I didn’t see any benefit to leaving.”
Clark’s wife, Dolores, is an integral part of the team that produces and harvests the fruit each year. It was her urging that led Burgess Orchards to grow peaches as well as apples.
“I love peaches and have always loved peaches,” she said in a Zoom interview. “I was sure they would make a delightful addition to our crop.” Clark and Dolores knew each other for years leading up to their marriage, having grown up not 20 miles apart.
In the 108-year history of the orchard, 12 varieties of apples and eight varieties of peaches have been and are currently cultivated on 16 acres of land.
“Everyone knew about Burgess Orchards,” Dolores said. “We all knew that he (Clark) would take over one day, so it came as no surprise to me that we ended up living in the same house he grew up in.”
Clark and Dolores have four children together.
“We don’t know, for sure, who will take over the family business in the future,” Dolores said. “We believe it’ll be our second — Matthew — but to be honest, we don’t really care. We know it’ll be in good hands no matter what.”
As the second of four children, Matthew (Matt) is on the path to take over as head grower for the business.
“I just grew up assuming that I would be in charge of continuing the tradition of running the business,” Matt said in a Zoom interview. He attended Utah Valley University (known as Utah Valley State College then), earning a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering.
He describes the farm on which the fruit is grown as “self-contained,” so he hopes that he can keep working with computers while running the family business.
But Clark does not think his son will be able to hold another job.
“He will need to quit his other job to put his full attention toward the orchard,” Clark said.
Matt said there was never any discussion on whether he would take over the family orchard. “I had been conditioned to know that it was just expected from me since I am the oldest male.”
He added, “The knowledge that the future of this beloved orchard will be in my hands one day is a heavy burden. It is a burden I feel like I can carry.”