Utah Agriculture: A Unique Aspect of American Agriculture

Mar 16th, 2015 Comments (0)
panorama of castle valley farm

There is no doubt that Utah is a unique state: full of red rocks and palm trees of Southern Utah to the pine trees and the high mountain peaks of Northern Utah; not to mention the desert land and salt flat areas in between. Truly, residents and visitors of our great state can see its diversity.

However nestled in between the scenic icons, you’ll find the quiet sounds of a planter, cultivator and harvester; or the sound of trotting hooves across the range – a small, yet powerful reminder of the diverse family farms that exist across the state.

In celebration of National Agriculture Week (March 15-21), National Agriculture Day (March 18)  and Agriculture Appreciation Week (March 22 – March 29), we felt a need to step back and reflect on the blessing of Utah farms and ranches.

Utah’s Own is challenging you to take some time with your friends and/or family to learn about Utah agriculture through this post, or spend some time browsing our farm and ranches listing. In addition, if you’re photo savvy, we encourage you to submit a photo of your agricultural life to the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. Details for submission can be found here.

agricultural economy infographic

Though farming may not be noticeable to many residents of the state as they commute up and down I-15, Utah still has a robust and healthy agriculture industry.  With commodity sales totaling $1.6 billion, and food processing adding an additional $15.4 billion, agriculture and food processing make up 14 percent of the state’s gross domestic product (GDP) sales, said Jed, Christenson, Marketing Director of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF).

According to Utah Agriculture in the Classroom, our state has more than 16,600 farms and ranches with about 11 million acres of farmland, specializing in diverse practices from cattle & sheep ranches to crop and feed operations (hay, grain or silage); as well as urban gardens and fruit and vegetable farms.

Such agriculture diversity found within Utah, it’s almost miraculous considering Utah is the second driest state in the nation, with a limited growing season. Utah farmers and ranchers are challenged with growing crops and raising animals using minimal amounts of water in a shortened season. Northern Utah’s average growing season is about 60 days and Southern Utah’s is about 190 days. This aspect restricts the types of crops that can be grown in this state.

cherries, apricots and sheep - utah's top commodites

Despite these restrictions, Utah finds itself ranked among top producers of many commodity crops and animals in the country. For example, Utah ranks second in nation for tart cherry production and third apricots. Within the animal industry, mink produced is the second largest in the country, while sheep production is fifth in the nation.

However, national ranking does not always translate to consumer availability – as mentioned above, Utah is blessed to have access to many diverse livestock and crop operations, some which are not recorded by the national statistics service.

If you are a consumer looking for fresh fruit and vegetables, you can purchase a variety of seasonal produce from Community Support Agriculture (CSA) farms, roadside stands, farmers markets or community gardens. In addition, many grocery stores are now contracting with Utah farms and ranches to sell local produce.

Within the livestock industry, consumers can purchase Utah beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, bison, buffalo, and beefalo, raised traditionally or grass-fed. Add other agriculture products such as wool, fiber, leather, eggs, milk, cheese, ice cream and honey to the list, and one begins to recognize the vast products available within the state. Try typing some of these words in our search bar above and see if you can find a farm near you!

girl planting seeds

However, these products do not grow without the dedication of Utah Farmers and Ranchers. They may be your family members, friends, neighbors, or maybe you don’t know any of them at all; either way, these Utah producers work day and night, through sunshine, rain, and snow to provide not only others in America but also us here in Utah with fresh local products. These people are the reason Utah’s Own supports Utah agriculture. We encourage each of you to support your local farmers and ranchers by buying fresh local products provided by members of Utah’s community.  

Please take some time this week to thank a farmer or rancher face-to-face or online for their hard work and devotion to our great state.

Happy National Agriculture Week!

It's planting time, and we look forward to bountiful harvest. Follow up with Utah's Own in the Fall to celebrate Eat Local Week.

Written by Bailee Woolstenhulme;  Edits and Graphics by Tamra Watson.

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