Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ramps up food production to help those in need

Peaches are ready for picking at a multistake peach orchard in Pleasant View, Utah, on Tuesday, August 25, 2020. Photo: Intellectual Reserve Inc. All rights reserved.

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Oct. 27, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been working to increase agricultural production to provide food for those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic and recent natural disasters.

A news release from the Church highlights the many new crops that have been harvested on Church farms in the United States and processed at its canneries. The food is then sent to the Bishops’ Central Storehouse in Salt Lake City for national distribution.

According to the news release, deliveries have been shipped to local food banks in Oregon and California following the devastating wildfires and to New York and other areas that were hit hard by the pandemic.

“We’ve been incredibly blessed this year with our harvest,” said Matthew Cox, manager of agricultural production and storage for the Church’s Welfare and Self-Reliance Services Department.

Trucks from the Church’s transportation system, Deseret Transportation, are hauling tens of millions of pounds of food to bishops’ storehouses and local food pantries.

“We’re seeing a lot of distribution in the Western U.S. and Canada. We’re also doing a lot in the Eastern Seaboard states where the demand was just so high, and they got hit so hard with COVID-19,” said Rick Long, welfare manager for the North America Northeast Area.

Also, production on the farms has been ramped up and the surplus food has been given to those in need, the news release states.

Where there is not a bishops’ storehouse, Long said, local bishops are authorized to use fast offering funds at grocery stores to purchase goods and services for those who need assistance.

Harvesting the Crops

Church canneries in Utah and Idaho process fruit and vegetables  — green beans, sweet corn, peaches, pears and apples — grown on Church-owned farms.

In southeastern Idaho, Church farmers grow wheat, sugar beets and potatoes.

Grapes are dried to make raisins in California, and peanuts are made into peanut butter at a Church-owned cannery in Houston, Texas, the news release says.

Sweet corn is grown on a Church farm in Layton, and is then processed at a cannery and stored at a warehouse to await shipping.

“Our corn harvest is having some great yields,” Cox said during the harvest in mid-August. The crop was processed at the Murray Cannery, which will be consolidated with the cannery in Harrisville at the beginning of the year, according to the release.

John K. Green has managed the Church’s crops in Layton, Syracuse and West Point for the past 40 years.

“This is the only farm that the welfare system has that grows the corn and the beans, so sometimes the weight of that’s on us to produce a crop,” said Green, who has two other managers and other staff on his team.

Long said the green beans that were canned in July are already being shipped across the country.

Dave Nielson, Church farm manager in Idaho Falls, Idaho, said, “We grow wheat, potatoes, alfalfa and canola. A lot of the wheat makes it into the bishops’ storehouses and to the Deseret Mill.”

Church workers and service missionaries harvested the hard red spring wheat crop on about 2,500 acres at the end of August with state-of-the-art combines and other equipment, the news release says.

After the wheat is harvested, it is stored in silos in Idaho until it’s shipped to the Deseret Mill and Pasta Plant in Kaysville. Some of the wheat is ground into flour to make bread.

Nielson said up to six service missionaries work on the Idaho Falls farm at any given time, donating over 3,000 hours of service every year.

Pleasant View peach orchard

Volunteers showed up at the Church’s peach orchard in Pleasant View in late August to harvest the peaches.

“This is a pretty good harvest. It’s not our best harvest by any measure. But, you know, we’re just grateful that we have a harvest,” said Bruce Liston, who has managed the Church’s peach orchard for the past 14 years.

Liston said many of the peach crops in nearby Brigham City, Perry and Willard were frozen this year. Some years, they harvest over 800,000 pounds, he said, but they can’t produce enough for the canneries this year.

Church members from multiple stakes in the area provide the labor to harvest the peaches.

Being prepared

Church farmers are already planning their crops for next year.

“The middle of March is when we really start getting busy. We stay busy through the winter on maintenance and all the equipment. … We’re busy all the way until basically Thanksgiving,” Nielson said.


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