Heirloom Orchards History

The history of Heirloom Orchards dates back to the early 1900's. Cadwallader "Doc" Evans, a steel man and doctor from Pittsburgh, had been spending his winters in Los Angeles around the turn of the century. Doc had always turned an eye towards farming (revisiting the roots of his being raised on a dairy farm) and thought California would be a good escape from the winters of the Northeast.

1930s picnic

Left to Right: Cadwallader Evans, 'Barney Evans', Mary Evans Bailey, Dorothy Evans Noble (seated). Photo from early 1930's of a picnic in the mountains behind Valyermo Ranch. Barney was probably on a summer visit from PA. He would come 'out west' with his grandfather Cadwallader while he was in prep school back east.

In 1910 he found an area north of Los Angeles, on the desert side of the San Gabriel Mountains. He purchased 1,000 acres of land in a valley known as Valyermo. His daughter Dorothy and her husband Levi proceeded to farm apples on this land, and began producing juice and cider there. It was in Valyermo that Dorothy's great nephew David Evans grew up.

David was interested in farming from the beginning. He pursued it throughout his education, and upon graduation from college went to work in the family agriculture business. By then the Evans' were farming citrus, grapes, and other crops in the great Central Valley of California, but David always had a different style of agriculture in the back of his mind. He was determined to find the right situation to get back to the roots of his childhood.

The farming community in California had become dominated by absentee ownership over the years, and the local communities had become increasingly disconnected to the farms and to the few farming families that had survived these changes. In the Central Valley of California there seemed to be little room left for those who wanted to pursue family run farming. David had since married Polly Matthews, and together they looked for a location to get back to the model of farming they felt was their destiny.

Valyermo Ranch, CA. The 'sandrocks' (also called 'The Devil's Punchbowl')
are at center at base of San Gabriel mountains. 1968

It was at this point that they discovered the Hood River Valley of Oregon. On their first visit they knew at once that this would be their home. Because of the Oregon land use laws, Hood River was a place where family run orchards and farms were still able to survive and be profitable. While Doc Evans was growing Apples in Valyermo, Hood River families like Willis, Wells, and Lage, had prospered growing pears, apples, and cherries in the idyllic mountain valley shadowed by Mt. Hood. In 1997 David and Polly purchased the Perry family farm, and began to grow Heirloom apples. David decided to retrieve the genetic material from varieties that were staples before the turn of the century. He began growing more than two dozen famous heirloom apple cultivars!

Today they have a thriving family business on their Heirloom Orchards Farm producing pears, apples, blueberries, cherries and peaches. Their orchards are in a Conservation Trust preventing them from ever being developed, and they have started REAP (Rural Education for Americans Project), a non profit foundation benefiting future young farmers and growers.

1958 Thanksgiving

1958 Thanksgiving. Posing in front of Aunt Dorothy's house in Valyermo, CA.
Left to right: Norman Evans, David Evans, Berne Evans, Betsy Evans, and Cathie Evans.

Polly and David started HeirloomOrchards.com to bring foods and gifts and their stories from the Northwest as well as apples and pears from their Heirloom Orchards farm. They want to promote growers and producers of sustainable foods and gifts. Those who maintain a commitment to community and whose dedication to regional economies are the core of their families' future.

Heirloom Orchards has a mission to tell the stories of ours and others' products. We want to provide interesting food products that are a taste of the Great Northwest. We are, of course, tremendously proud of our apples and pears and the variety of their flavors. We strive for a way of life where products are owner made and business is eye to eye; where the rural landscape reflects a community that is thriving and will continue to do so.

Sally and apples

Daughter Sally in her favorite apple tree


All images and content ©2009 Heirloom Orchards®, PO Box 527, Odell, Oregon, 97044. All Rights Reserved.