Tucked away in a dip of land on upper Pentz Road, a hidden oasis of Paradise sways serenely in the late summer breeze. All around it, signs of construction and rebuilding document the changing of times, but the trees grow on just as they always have since first planted in 1921.
This oasis, of course, is the thriving peach and apple trees at Noble Orchards, nearly all spared by the 2018 Camp Fire. Longtime owners Jim and Laurie Noble were astonished to find that while the conifers and buildings didn’t make it, the orchard itself was intact.
When they saw the trees, they knew their future would remain in Paradise. “It wasn’t a question of whether we were going to come back,” said Laurie. “It was a question of how we do it!”
The decision to remain open continues a generational operation, begun in 1921 when Jim’s grandfather purchased the property. Following the development of the Paradise Irrigation District, it was determined to be a great place with a good climate to plant apples.
“When the fire happened in 2018,” said Laurie, “We were on year 97 of being open. It had always been a goal to get to 100 years, and we were so close. There was really no question.”
Noble Orchards has long been a Paradise treasure for their delicious fruits and for their investment in local agritourism. Jim and Laurie were one of the founding participants of the beloved local Sierra Oro Farm Trail, back again this year during the month of October. They’ll also be hosting a monitored U-Pick for apples later this year.
In 2020, the Nobles also started a plant nursery to help the town rebuild. “At the time we started growing the plants, Paradise didn’t have a nursery, and we thought this would help meet the needs of the community.” They’re now propagating most of the plants they sell and will continue to expand the plant offerings over time.
As one of the many businesses returning to the Town, the Nobles look forward to being a part of regrowth. “I think we have a good opportunity to grow as a community,” said Laurie.
They also encourage Paradise residents to lean into the safety of their families and neighbors, especially during fire season. The Nobles attribute the survival of their orchard to trimmed fields, mowed fields, and maintaining defensible space. “We need everybody to pick up personal responsibility,” said Laurie. “If you want to live in the mountains, you’ll need to live a little differently and always be preparing for the upcoming fire season.”
Most importantly, she added, “we all need to have compassion for other towns and areas now dealing with the fires and help them in any way we can.”