Gilcrease, what a gem, and if you have never been, this year is the year to get there. The history of the farm began in 1920 with the arrival of Elda and Leonard Gilcrease and their two sons Ted and Bill.
Leonard came from a farm family and met Elda at the University of Nevada, Reno, where they both graduated with bachelor’s degrees. Leonard studied mechanical engineering and Elda studied music, intending to be an educator. But after marrying and starting their young family, they decided to use Elda’s inheritance to purchase over 900 acres in the Las Vegas Valley that included natural artisan springs, known as the Lower Tule Springs, for cultivating crops and raising livestock.
The family struggled working the ranch in those early years, and the onset of the Great Depression following the stock market crash of 1929 was enough to discourage Leonard from continuing with their farm life. He left Elda and their two young sons and the couple divorced in 1930. Elda persisted and continued the ranch for several decades with the aid of her sons. She never remarried and passed away in 1968.
The Gilcrease Ranch once owned more than 1,500 acres of land, cultivating up to 200 acres. But due to financial setbacks over the years, the Gilcrease family gradually sold most of their other properties. The remaining 60 acres of orchard valley residents have come to know (and love) was conceptualized during the 1970’s and has provided locally grown crops now for nearly 50 years.
It is one of the most fertile patches of farming land in the Las Vegas area and preserved by the Board of Trustees commitment to first, preserve the Orchard, second, to beautify it, and third, to provide educational and recreational activities for the public.
The family’s dream was that the Gilcrease Orchard would be a place local residents could come and enjoy a sampling of the kind of life they knew. They wanted to preserve this unique gem where the community can pick food fresh off the tree or vine and see, feel, and taste the difference. Through their non-profit foundation, they aimed to provide recreational and educational experiences that teach children where our food comes from and how it is grown, helping to foster an appreciation for the earth’s bounty and a healthy lifestyle.
Gilcrease Orchard is currently open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. The trip is worth it, if only for the fresh apple cider and local produce you can take on a picnic or back home with you. Go out and support a local tradition.