Longtime Palisade peach grower dies at 78

James “Larry” Clark, founder of Clark Orchards and one of six generations of the Clark family to grow fruit in the Grand Valley, died Wednesday after a long battle with cancer. He was the great-grandson of Palisade pioneers who began growing fruit in 1897, said his son, Dennis.

James L. “Larry” Clark loved peaches. His favorite way to enjoy them was simple: sliced and served over a bowl of breakfast cereal.

Clark, founder of Clark Family Orchards and one of six generations from his family to farm fruit locally, died Wednesday after a decade-long fight with cancer. He was 78.

“He could eat peaches every day, and did, as long as they were available, whether they were canned or fresh,” said Clark’s youngest son, Dennis Clark, the current operator of Clark Family Orchards, 3929 U.S. Highway 6 in Palisade.

A service for Larry will be at 2 p.m. today at Palisade United Methodist Church.

Dennis remembered his father Thursday as an avid outdoorsman, successful peach grower and lover of the land around Palisade.

In fact, locals likely have seen the Clark Family Orchards wagon at area parades and events. Some may have even spotted Larry riding a mule or horse on Grand Mesa.

“As he got older, and we started doing more of the farming, he transitioned to his passion, which was breaking horses, draft horses and mules,” Dennis said. “And exploring mountains. He just loved to go out and find another hill or another trail to follow.”

Larry Clark, a Palisade native, was born on Aug. 19, 1934, in the middle of the fruit harvest, the great-grandson of town pioneers who began growing fruit in 1897, Dennis said.

“He graduated in 1952 and immediately started farming,” Dennis said.

However, Larry never expected the Palisade peach industry, and his orchard, to achieve national acclaim when he founded Clark Family Orchards on a 20-acre parcel of land in the early 1950s, Dennis said.

Through Larry’s years, Clark Family Orchards grew to 100 acres, was featured on supermarket commercials and began shipping fruit around the country.

When asked what his father loved most about fruit farming, Dennis said: “I think just the hard work you put into it, and the satisfaction of seeing your produce raised and enjoyed.”

Longtime friend Harold Broughton, of Delta’s High Quality Packing, first met Larry in the 1960s in the Western Colorado Horticultural Society.

“We just had fun together,” Harold said. “He was a real good producer. He always had top of the notch fruit.”


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