THE Utah Farm Report.
Sprawl Displaces Utah Agriculture
As the founding industry of Utah's economic and cultural heritage agriculture is nowadays a quiet giant often trampled in the rush to sell the vision of the "new Utah" - a shiny conglomeration con·glom·er·a·tion
a. The act or process of conglomerating.
b. The state of being conglomerated.
2. An accumulation of miscellaneous things. of technology, manufacturing and tourism.
Truth is, agriculture remains a cornerstone in Utah's economy, not unlike the staid staid
1. Characterized by sedate dignity and often a strait-laced sense of propriety; sober. See Synonyms at serious.
2. character of its tradition. That said, however, agriculture is an industry under siege and, though relatively stable now, faces an uncertain future.
Examining the evolution and impact of farmland in Utah is a complicated task and one impacted by factors like farm displacement in urban areas, and by an increase in "hobby farms Hobby Farms is a bimonthly magazine. Its editorial offices are based in Lexington, Kentucky. Hobby Farms magazine’s tagline is “Rural Living for Pleasure and Profit”. " that are recognized in statistical reporting, but are not legitimately part of the producing sector.
Utah's farmland acreage has stayed constant, and in some cases actually increased slightly over recent years. The latest figures show Utah's agricultural land at some 11.6 million acres, but with the average farm size decreasing 25 acres in 1999 to a standard 748 acres.
Utah encompasses some 15,500 farms, a slight increase from previous years, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Economists, however, note that the increase is really a paper change, likely stemming from the official definition of "farm" changing six years ago to include "operations with no sales, but having five or more horses." Previously, a farm had to record sales of agriculture products of $1,000 or more to be considered "farmland."
"We can do with statistics what we will," says Utah's Agriculture Commissioner Cary Peterson, also a longtime Sanpete County farmer. "We have the ranchettes that call themselves farms, but are not practically a part of the production system."
A billion-dollar impact to the state in terms of annual farm-gate receipts (sales of raw goods), agriculture is also one of those foundation industries that supports and affects others around it. It cannot simply be measured at the farm level.
"The production side of farming is important to our quality of life. But agriculture is broader," says Randy Parker, marketing analyst with the state Department of Agriculture. For example, he points to efforts like Logan's Gossner Foods Inc. that produces and exports a boxed, shelf-stable milk product to Hong Kong Hong Kong (hŏng kŏng), Mandarin Xianggang, special administrative region of China, formerly a British crown colony (2005 est. pop. 6,899,000), land area 422 sq mi (1,092 sq km), adjacent to Guangdong prov. and the Asian markets. "We've seen regional, national and international markets develop from companies that are locating or growing their businesses here in Utah. And that's as much a part of the production side of it (agriculture) as anything that we grow."
At Utah State University Utah State University, mainly at Logan; coeducational; land-grant and state supported; chartered 1888, opened 1890. It publishes Utah Science, Western Historical Quarterly, and Western American Literary Journal. , economist Bruce Godfrey agrees that to examine the impact of agriculture is to consider a complex and interwoven in·ter·weave
v. in·ter·wove , in·ter·wo·ven , inter·weav·ing, inter·weaves
1. To weave together.
2. To blend together; intermix.
v.intr. landscape of factors.
"The only way I know how to (measure its impact) correctly is when you look at the total (economy) and look at those interrelationships of how one industry depends upon the other one," Godfrey says. "So you measure the impact of agriculture on the banking industry, or on the (farm) implement dealer."
The verdict? Agriculture, riding the ebb and flow the alternate ebb and flood of the tide; often used figuratively.
See also: Ebb of the state's economic waves, is generally stable, analysts and farmers agree. But in a larger perspective, the industry is feeling the stirrings of a national -- even global -- trend toward fewer farms and farmland. Or at least a changing conception of the farm.
Fruits of Their Labors
Traditionally considered a "livestock" state, Utah still wears that label. A full 75 percent of the state's agriculture-related cash receipts come from livestock and affiliated products, like milk and eggs. Crops make up the remaining 25 percent of ag receipts, with the largest portion earned from feed crops like alfalfa alfalfa (ălfăl`fə) or lucern (lsûn`), perennial leguminous plant (Medicago sativa .
Where is Utah's most productive farmland? One pictures the verdant ver·dant
1. Green with vegetation; covered with green growth.
3. Lacking experience or sophistication; naive. valleys in northern Utah as the obvious answer. And, not surprisingly, the fertile soil of Cache County yields the most return overall. The USDA's Economic Research Service reports that Cache County led the state in total cash receipts during 1998, according to the latest agricultural census in 2000. Utah County fell second, with Box Elder box elder: see maple.
Hardy and fast-growing tree (Acer negundo), also called ash-leaved maple, of the maple family, native to the central and eastern U.S. , Sanpete and Millard counties following in respective order.
The state's primary cattle producers are found in Box Elder, Cache, Millard, Duchesne and Utah counties. When it comes to milk cows, the USDA's 2000 agriculture inventory shows Cache County as the primary Utah region for milk production. Sanpete County is recognized for its leading sheep production.
But, in a larger perspective, the production fields of Utah are scattered Scattered
Used for listed equity securities. Unconcentrated buy or sell interest. across the state's landscape, from the deserts of southwest Utah to the mountainland of Summit County. For example, Box Elder led the state in grain production -- wheat, barley, oats oats, cereal plants of the genus Avena of the family Gramineae (grass family). Most species are annuals of moist temperate regions. The early history of oats is obscure, but domestication is considered to be recent compared to that of the other and corn. Meanwhile, Millard County topped the state's alfalfa hay production -- currently considered Utah's leading cash crop.
Kenneth R. Ashby is president of the Utah Farm Bureau Federation, an industry organization of Utah's agriculture producers. He's also an alfalfa farmer in Millard County. Although Ashby's current acreage in production has decreased from historical levels, he nonetheless rides the boom in alfalfa that has made it a lucrative venture for Utah crop farmers.
"I would say that in the last 10 years, the Years, The
the seven decades of Eleanor Pargiter’s life. [Br. Lit.: Benét, 1109]
See : Time crop that has grown the most is alfalfa hay," he says. "It has really spiked. Dairymen learned how valuable alfalfa hay was to them in milk production. And it was looked at more as the primary feed, particularly for dairy, than just being a filler crop or forage forage
Vegetable food, including corn and hay, of wild or domestic animals. Harvested, processed, and stored forage is called silage. Forage should be harvested in early maturity to avoid a decrease in protein and fibre content as crops mature. crop that didn't have a lot of value."
Trouble in These Fields
At 62, Ashby is older than the median age of the Utah farmer, which is 58. He brushes away notions that the Utah farmer is a threatened species and farming a lifestyle under siege. He does acknowledge that Utah's farmland is shifting away from urban areas and further into the state's rural regions.
"There's an organization going around saying we're losing a million-and-a-half to two-million acres of agricultural land a year and I just don't find that," Ashby says. "And one of the most telling points is that, if that were true, my farmland would be worth a whole lot more money than it is.
"Of course in urban areas, that is true," he adds. "But in total, we are not losing our production capability."
Agriculture policymakers have a different take on the situation. The issue at hand is not that acres in production are falling, but instead that "critical resource" soils -- largely the fertile valley soils also attractive to development -- are fast being displaced displaced
see displacement. by urban sprawl along the Wasatch Front The Wasatch Front (Or Greater Wasatch) is an urban area in the U.S. state of Utah. It consists of a chain of cities and towns stretched along the Wasatch Range from approximately Santaquin in the south to Brigham City in the north. .
"We do have segments of agriculture that are doing well," Commissioner Peterson says, "and we have some larger units of operation. But we definitely have a growth and development conflict, and a growth and development fragmentation."
"Agriculture is still a major industry in the state and will continue to be for a long time," suggests USU's Godfrey. "But it won't always be important in Salt Lake and Weber counties. The role of agriculture is essentially over in Salt Lake County."
And while acreage is displaced in the urban valleys and relocated to more rural locations -- a seemingly fine prospect -- such a move affects the type of crops produced, and also impacts the state's bank of open space, as farmland replaces traditional grazing grazing,
n See irregular feeding.
1. actions of herbivorous animals eating growing pasture or cereal crop.
2. area of pasture or cereal crop to be used as standing feed. See also pasture. and timberlands.
"To quote one of the national experts on quality fruit and vegetables: 'there is nothing like Wasatch Front fruit and vegetables,'" Peterson says. "(But) we have lost, and are losing, that kind of (fruit and vegetable) production. We're losing ground on sweet cherry value by total farm-gate value. We're losing on peaches and vegetables. And those are the high-value crops that do well in the Wasatch Front counties."
Likewise, as the future of such specialty crops remains uncertain in the state, so does the future of the industry.
"Who is going to own the land in the future? We don't know Don't know (DK, DKed)
"Don't know the trade." A Street expression used whenever one party lacks knowledge of a trade or receives conflicting instructions from the other party. for sure," Peterson says. "We don't know who is going to have the capital to invest and what's going to happen to the value of the assets of today's farms and ranches.
"One of the big questions is whether or not it's profitable to retain ownership in farms and agriculture land," says Peterson. "It's a huge issue, as yet undecided."
Nicole A. Bonham Bonham can refer to: