Phil and Shirley Rowley run South Ridge Farms with the help of their eight sons. Some have called their “Red Barn” one of the best kept secrets in Utah Valley, with its homemade fruit products, crafts and Aggie ice cream.
Phil and Shirley Rowley run South Ridge Farms with the help of their eight sons. Some have called their “Red Barn” one of the best kept secrets in Utah Valley, with its homemade fruit products, crafts and Aggie ice cream.

It’s almost like the Thanksgiving Point of southern Utah County.

While it may not have fine dining or a zoo, Santaquin’s South Ridge Farms owned by the Rowley family does have hayrides, farm markets and beautiful scenery — not to mention a golf course … of sorts.

The eight Rowley sons created a tee box, putting green and hole in that entertained them between all-night cherry picking sessions.

“They had a lot of fun playing golf and getting good at it until they broke four windows in a row,” their mother Shirley Rowley says, with a guarded laugh. “That was the end of the golf course here.”

But “the end” isn’t the right description for anything else at this family farm. Instead, there is a feeling of newness, freshness and innovation.

Phil and Shirley Rowley have expanded a fourth-generation fruit farm into an international hub of cherry products, crafts, apples and peaches. The “Red Barn,” as it’s often referred to, sells handcrafted items, gift baskets, the famous Aggie ice cream, and freshly made fruit products — including cherry salsa.

“We want to bring people here and have them feel what it’s like to be on a farm,” Phil says. “Farms have a special feeling about them that many children just don’t get to experience anymore.”

A cherry per day may just keep the doctor away.
Tart cherries can inhibit cancer, reduce arthritis pain and improve sleep patterns, according to studies performed in Michigan and Texas.
Cherries are a rich source of antioxidants that can help fight heart disease. In addition, they contain compounds that relieve arthritis, gout and even headaches.
The secret?
The pigment in cherries has been called “Mother Nature’s all-natural chemotherapy agent.”
The Rowleys have several clients who have improved their health since eating tart cherry products.

The education program at South Ridge Farms includes a slide show presentation and question and answerperiod where schoolchildren learn about fruit.

“It is gratifying to give these kids a taste of the farm life because we find that so many of them haven’t been taught the basics of agriculture,” Phil says.

This farming operation is a cross between a mom-and-pop operation and a Fortune 500 up-and-coming business.

Phil hand-picks cherries, helps customers at the front counter, and has driven to Roosevelt more than once to deliver cherry products to an elderly couple who has a hard time driving to Santaquin. But South Ridge Farms also ship products around the country, is revolutionizing the use of tart cherries, and has created dozens of products with the Made in Utah label.

“The truth is, we’re hokey,” Shirley says.

But hokey is okey-dokey if you’re doing what you love and finding success.

“We’ve had people tell us that we’re the best kept secret in Utah County,” Shirley says. “We’re slowly building a good name.”

Their reputation brings people back time and again, including an infamous customer who spends about five hours each year picking her pumpkin — or as she calls it, gourd.

“I’ve seen people take that long finding a Christmas tree, but this is a first for pumpkins,” Phil says. “But this makes our lives interesting when we get a chuckle out of helping our customers. It is fun for us because we can make it fun for her.”

The variety of fun keeps growing here, including hayrides, pumpkin patches and craft fairs.

With the eight Rowley sons growing up and taking on full-time responsibilities at the farm, Phil and Shirley want the farm to be expansive enough to support their sons.

“I love working with my children,” Shirley says. “It warms my heart when I see three of them coming down the road in the truck together.”

• Utah is the second-highest tart cherry producing area in the United States, behind the Great Lakes region.
• The average person consumes about one pound of tart cherries per year.
• Tart cherries are harvested in July and August.
• There are about 7,000 cherries on an average tart cherry tree.
• It takes about 250 cherries to make a cherry pie, so each tree potentially could produce enough cherries for 28 pies.
• Cherry trees begin to produce fruit about five years after being planted in the orchards.
• Mature cherry trees produce more than 100 pounds of fruit per season.
• Tart cherries are sold frozen, dried, canned, pureed and in concentrate. South Ridge Farms also sells cherry salsa, which includes no tomatoes.

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