The Orchard at Rancho La Loma

The Orchard at Rancho La Loma is to be built by Sun Health in Litchfield Park.

It’s no surprise that Sun Health is creating more independent living units—that’s what the nonprofit has been doing, for more than a half-century in the West Valley.

But starting a farm?

That’s a little out of the box and, indeed, ironic in this age of turning farms into homes around the West Valley.

Sharon Grambow said Sun Health is putting down roots—literally—on 25 acres in Litchfield Park.

“We are talking with a local farm that will have a farm there with a stand and a farm-to-fork restaurant,” said Grambow, Sun Health CFO.

“We have a farmer that will start putting in crops as early as the first quarter of 2021.”

That likely will please the Litchfield family.

Litchfield Park founder Paul Litchfield’s daughter, Edith Litchfield Denny, and her husband, Wally Denny, donated the 300 acres to Sun Health in 1999. 

Sun Health, which also has senior communities in Sun City and Surprise, currently has 131 independent living homes (117 apartment units and 14 casitas) on the property near Camelback and Litchfield roads. The Sun Health homes are called La Loma Village.

Recently, the Litchfield Park City Council approved an expansion for 70 more independent living homes, dubbed the Orchard at Rancho La Loma.

Construction for the new neighborhood is scheduled to start later this year, with the homes to be ready by the summer.

 Plans are also in place for a community event center.

“The 70 (new homes) really represents a number to make the project work economically,” Grambow said. “(The current) 131 independent living units for a life care campus is a bit small to take advantage of economies of scale.”

She explained the Sun Health philosophy: “When a resident moves in, we guarantee they will never have to leave—no matter what happens to them medically or financially.”

Grambow also envisions a “healthy food store” and retail shops for part of the Litchfield Park land.

“We’ve got a lot of things in the works. We’re just waiting for the city to approve our zoning request,” she said.

The farm fits with the current agricultural zoning, so it is ready to go—and grow.

“Paul Litchfield had a huge agricultural development, and of course the family lived on the hilltop. They had large citrus groves and a lot of other crops planted on the land,” she said.

“In our branding, we have used the oranges as part of our logo for the Rancho La Loma campus—an homage back to the days Mr. and Mrs. Litchfield owned it and cultivated it.

“What was most important to them was they didn’t hand it off to an organization that would sell the land to developers then walk away. What was important to Edith and Wally Denny, who made the gift, was for the land (to) be used for healthy living and the well-being of people in the Southwest Valley.”