Locals have celebrated the bounty of produce harvested between Brigham City and South Willard in Box Elder County for well over a century, but it wasn’t until 2006 that the State of Utah designated the area on Highway 89 as the “Utah Fruitway”.
It’s a highway rooted in history yet ever-changing. You can read about recently launched endeavors like Apple Creek Bulk Foods, an Amish grocery store; and Cake Farm (a vintage trailer farm selling pies and cupcakes) in my story in The Salt Lake Tribune. Then visit some of the Fruitway’s original residents like Pettingill Fruit Farm, Grammy’s, Neilson’s Fruit & Produce and the nostalgic Maddox Ranch House restaurant.
Surrounding the Fruitway is some of the best fruit tree producing soils in Utah says Utah State University. Over 40 different varieties of peaches are grown in Box Elder County and you’ll find them all along Utah Fruitway in one of the many fruit stands dotting the road as well as the focus of Brigham City’s Peach Days celebration, held the weekend after Labor Day since 1904.
In Willard, Grammy’s alone has 1,600 fruit trees, featuring 16 varieties of peaches plus six kinds of apples, five varieties of cherries, as well as apricots, nectarines and plums. Other long-standing, family-run fruit stands like Neilson’s and Pettingill sell everything from stone fruits and apples to beets and melons. Regular shoppers along the Fruitway know that each stand has a distinctive draw that keeps them coming back each year. At Neilson’s, huge pops of color from tables of wave petunias and geraniums beacon to drivers to stop into their yellow-and-white-striped tent for flowers and produce.
Pettingill Fruit Farm is at the southern edge of the Fruitway—the first stop driving north. Bushels of peaches greet customers at the entrance but don’t miss the shelves of Pettingill’s jams and fruit butters (cherry, apple, pumpkin and peach to name just a few) near the back or on hotter days, order a custom-made fruit shake from the Shake Shop. Each is made with local fruits and Ogden’s own Farr Better Ice Cream.
Jean P. Davis is the manager of the fruit market. She’s the daughter of Gay W. Pettingill who started Pettingill’s 60 years ago and still works the farm along with his son Steven. “We raise 50 different varieties of peaches,” she says. “When I was young our peach season was about six weeks. But, today because of the development of a number of varieties our season starts in late July and ends at the first week of October.”
Before leaving the Fruitway with boxes of produce, Amish goods and sweet treats for the ride home, consider a final farewell at Maddox Ranch House—Utah’s original steakhouse. Opened in 1949 in the same location it occupies today, Maddox is known for it’s down-home, stick-to-your-ribs meals. Try the Taste of Maddox ($18.50) served with Maddox’s famous skinless fried chicken breast, juicy chicken fried steak and turkey steak, plus homemade rolls and cornpones drenched in raspberry butter.