The History of the Orchard
Surprised to see such succulent produce grown in the desert? Thanks to the Gilcrease Family, and natural artesian springs, this unique piece of land has been preserved for over 90 years for the community to enjoy.
The Gilcrease Orchard Foundation
Over the years the Gilcrease Ranch raised chickens and turkeys sold to the townsfolk and the military base close by. They grew assorted crops including alfalfa and along the way eventually owned more than 1500 acres of land but cultivated about 200 acres.
Ted showed the greater interest in farming and took over the management of the ranch and their land holdings while Bill pursued his interest in art and birds. Nevertheless, they both contributed time and land for the development of the Orchard during the 1970's. By that time, Ted decided to stop alfalfa production and focus on an orchard accessible to the community. Bill assisted by experimenting with apple strains best suited for the arid environment. For over twenty-five years, valley residents enjoyed 100 acres devoted to what Ted called his "pick and pay" orchard.
Recognizing his age and poor health were diminishing his ability to run the Orchard, Ted decided he needed to do something to protect the orchard in perpetuity. In 1997 he, with Bill's support, decided to establish the non-profit Gilcrease Orchard Foundation governed by a Board of Trustees, to manage and operate the Gilcrease Orchard. The founding trustees were Ted, Bill and Mary Ellen Racel. After Ted's passing in 2003, Bill remained a life time trustee, and Ms. Racel added her two children to the board. The Racels managed the Orchard until Bill decided to reorganize the Board of Trustees. The old board stepped down, and on April 30, 2009, Bill Gilcrease voted in a new Board which included Thalia Dondero, Linn Mills, Robert Murray and Corinne Escobar, with Mark Ruben hired as Director. The Orchard has been under this new management since that time.