Promote Greenbelt Designation as a Way for Farmers to Save on Property Taxes, by Valuing Their Land Based on Agricultural Production Rather than Market Value

Who can implement this: State, county, and city lawmakers; advocacy organizations; and agricultural producers

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The Utah Farmland Assessment Act allows Utah farmers and ranchers to have their agricultural property assessed and taxed based on its capability for productivity instead of real-estate market values. [1]

The Utah State Tax Commission works with other committees and Utah State University to establish values for productivity that are applied statewide, setting terms of value per acre for different land classifications. Each qualifying parcel of property is classified upon application according to its existing features and the kind of agriculture being cultivated on it. This classification process gives the land a new value to be assessed and taxed on.

Greenbelt designation is meant to more accurately reflect the true value of agricultural land and operations and lower tax rates to dissuade landowners from selling agricultural land to residential developers. As a result, greenbelt designation could improve both the economic viability of farming operations and the preservation of existing farmlands in Utah County.

Greenbelt areas are also part of the county’s heritage and can make communities more desirable and livable. These areas provide green, open spaces, which could improve air quality and reduce the urban heat island effect.

Greenbelt applications must be obtained from the Utah County Farmland Assessor. In order to currently qualify for greenbelt designation, a parcel of land must: 

  1. Be at least five contiguous acres,
  2. Have been actively devoted to agricultural use for at least two years,
  3. Be managed in a way that there is expectation of profit,
  4. Meet average annual production requirements (at least 50% of the county average for production per acre).

Applications must be submitted by May 1st of the tax year. The resulting assessment is valid unless the landowner fills out another application withdrawing from the greenbelt designation.

State and local lawmakers should work with farm organizations to better understand what is expected of a landowner applying for greenbelt designation and to explore ways to streamline the application process.

Implementation:

  • The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food should better inform farmers and ranchers on the benefits of greenbelt property value designation. Though the greenbelt system has significant benefits, landowners must be aware of the program and must individually apply for greenbelt designation, meaning some may miss the opportunity if they do not know it exists.
  • It is recommended that state and county legislators seek to expand the Urban Farming Assessment Act. This act should be expanded so that it specifically applies to Utah County, as it is to Salt Lake County. Expanding the act might also allow for more unconventional forms of agriculture, possibly including indoor agriculture.
  • Producers on smaller lots should utilize the Urban Farming Assessment Act where applicable. The act allows active agriculturally producing parcels of land between 2–4.99 acres in size to be taxed similarly to greenbelt-qualified properties, lowering property taxes from market rate to more reasonable costs.

Examples:

The Utah Farmland Assessment Act was created to specifically assist farmers and ranchers preserve their agricultural lands near expanding urban areas across the state. Individual county assessors are responsible for assessing land within their jurisdiction, and the Utah County Assessor’s Office has a dedicated farmland assessor who oversees the countywide implementation of the Utah Farmland Assessment Act.


Support Transitioning to Specialty Crops and Niche Products with High Returns where Feasible, and Utilize Value-Added Processing Methods

Who can implement this: State and county lawmakers, and agricultural producers

Utah County has an ideal microclimate for many specialty crops and niche products that are in high demand. Utah growers are already successfully producing and selling specialty crops such as tart and sweet cherries, pears, apples, raspberries, peaches, tree nuts, and vegetables. Shifting from common crops like hay and alfalfa to other specialty crops could potentially allow growers to sell their yields at higher prices, improving farm revenues. High-value specialty crops that are both viable and relatively undergrown in Utah County include apricots, quinoa, lavender, pine nuts, and some herbs and vegetables.

Growers can also achieve higher revenues through value-added processing. Value-added processing refers to the on-site transformation of raw agricultural products into consumer-ready food products. Other potential ways of adding value to agricultural products involve utilizing each farmer’s unique skillset and resources to implement strategies related to processing, packaging, or marketing. Even small farms can significantly increase their revenues through value-added processing by creating unique (and more valuable) combinations of products and by-products.[1]

Implementation:

A major aspect of this strategy is education-based, adding to and supplementing farmers’ existing knowledge about which specialty crops grow well in Utah, which specialty products can be processed from their raw agricultural products, which products are in local market demand, and how to change farming practices if they began to grow specialty crops in place of more common crops

Specific programs can potentially be implemented in Utah County to promote specialty-crop production or to encourage farmers to explore value-added processing as a means to introduce unique products to the local economy while increasing their own revenues.

  • Utah State University should continue to work on outreach programs that explain how specialty crops and value-added processing can increase farmer’s’ agricultural revenues and add value to the local economy. In addition, the university should provide education on incentives and funding available to help farmers capitalize on these opportunities.
  •  It is recommended that the county work with state and national farm organizations to provide incentives and funding for farmers who are exploring the viability of specialty crops or new ways to process products. Such organizations include the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, United States Department of Agriculture, Utah Farm Bureau, etc.
  • Farmers and ranchers can look into potential market niches in their local economies and evaluate whether specialty products and additional processes could be viable with their operations.
  • If viable, individual farms should create strategies and secure funding to pursue specific forms of value-added agriculture, using careful planning to ensure maximum profits and minimum costs.
  • The Utah Department of Agriculture should work with state legislators and farmers to develop a state-run processing facility/commercial agriculture kitchen to help farmers explore developing different kinds of agriculture products.

Examples:

Rowley’s Red Barn in Santaquin, Utah, is one of the most successful examples of specialty crop growing, value-added processing, and agritourism in Utah. The Rowley family met the demands of a lucrative niche market in the agricultural economy by producing specialty crops, primarily cherries and apples. The Rowleys furthered their unique role in the local economy by utilizing value-added processing to create specialty products ranging from dried cherries to fresh ice cream.[2]

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food runs the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. This program awards money to projects that work solely to enhance the competitiveness of U.S.-grown specialty crops, which benefits specialty crop growers across the state and nation. The Utah Department of Agriculture is particularly interested in increasing the overall viability of specialty crops in Utah and in understanding where in Utah the climate and growing conditions could be conducive for growing them. Funds are available to state agencies, organizations, and universities.[3]

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Value Added Producer Grants program helps farmers adopt value-added activities related to processing and marketing by matching the funds of new and established farmers.[4] These grants range in size up to $250,000 and can serve as a crucial resource for smaller producers looking to expand their agricultural operations by filling a more unique, specialized need for products in their communities.

Utah State University’s Food Quality and Entrepreneurship program, created by the school’s food product entrepreneurial specialist, provides valuable resources to producers looking to create and market new products.[5] Resources range from informational materials to workshops and classes that all aim to remove barriers to the food industry. The program assists farmers with every step of creating value-added products, allowing them to develop their products in an incubator kitchen, providing expertise about marketing, and making information about regulation and certification more accessible.[6] Individual entrepreneurs can schedule the program’s test kitchen at Community Action in Provo.[7]


Promote and Implement Practices that Reduce Operational Costs and Increase Revenue

Who can implement this: Governmental organizations, advocacy organizations, and agricultural producers

Farmers can increase revenues by exploring new technologies. New and different practices in the production, upkeep, and harvesting of crops could reduce the costs of operating a farm.[1]

Farmers and ranchers may also be able to increase revenue by exploring products for niche markets. Farmers could work with other farmers, both local and nationwide, to develop new processes and improve existing products in order to create new and more valuable products. Agricultural producers could also team up with other small-scale farmers and ranchers to increase their purchasing and marketing power.

Implementation:

  • Utah State University should continue to look for ways to expand existing resources to help support farmers reduce operational costs and more efficiently produce and process agricultural exports.
  • Farmers and ranchers should form partnerships and work closely with other local and nationwide agricultural producers to combine buying and selling power and explore ways to more efficiently market, ship, and otherwise process their products. This combined power allows for local farmers and ranchers to explore new products, marketing methods, and other ways to improve revenues and the overall quality and reach of their operations.

Examples:

The Rowleys of Rowley’s Red Barn pioneered new ways of drying cherries by working with agricultural researchers at the University of California Davis and producers from Michigan and Oregon.[2] Rowley’s Red Barn is now working with Michigan’s Cherry Central, combining their buying and selling powers to become leading cherry producers in the United States.

Nutri-Mulch, of the Moroni Feed Company, is a natural compost created with the used turkey bedding of five million turkeys.[3] This byproduct is processed to become a weed-free compost that releases nutrients slowly and improves plant-root structure, water-drainage, and air penetration.

Sheep ranchers Logan and Albert Wilde of Croydon, Utah, created fertilizer pellets from the waste produced by wool production. This innovation provided an extra source of revenue for the wool operation, improved the profitability of the ranch, and reduced the amount of wool that was thrown away.[4]

McMullin Orchards partnered with Utah County Extension to use specialty crop grants offered through the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. The funds were spent to begin using cherry pits as part of soils and fertilizers allowing producers to make use of an underutilized by-product of cherry processing.[5]


Help Farmers Develop Marketing Plans and Processes to Improve Revenue and Ensure that Their Products Are Sold

Who can implement this: Communities, universities, governmental organizations, advocacy organizations, and agricultural producers

Marketing is a key aspect of agricultural production that is often overlooked. Marketing plans for farmers need to be substantial and holistic. Farmers and ranchers may benefit by expanding their knowledge of product marketing and not relying wholly on farmers markets or any one avenue for product sales. Using varied distribution channels may help farmers and ranchers better market their products and see increased revenue. To be successful, however, these marketing and selling methods require the support of other producers as well as the overall community.

Implementation:

  • Universities and farm organizations should engage agricultural producers to support their marketing efforts. Together, they should explore different avenues of delivering agricultural products to consumers, taking into consideration the unique conditions of different communities.
  • Utah County and its cities should partner with farms to improve the farms’ product branding and marketing plans. Such improvements could give the farms more exposure and help elevate the prestige of the city and county as a farming community. Governmental newsletter lists and communication networks could be used to inform residents about the farms and products.
  • Utah’s Own is an organization that provides farmers a unique avenue for advertising products and getting local crops on more store shelves. Utah’s Own should continue reaching out to farmers and help raise public awareness about agricultural products that can be bought locally.

Examples:

Rural Development of the USDA administers Rural Business Development Grants that can be used to help producers market products, package them in new ways, and develop new product lines.[1]

Utah State University Extension hosts seminars and classes that educate farmers, ranchers, and other business owners about issues crucial to owning a small business. These topics range from problem solving in entrepreneurship to developing marketing plans.[2]


Explore a Variety of Food Distribution Systems to Help Local Food Thrive in Utah County

Who can implement this: State and county lawmakers, communities, governmental organizations, advocacy organizations, and agricultural producers

A lack of efficient, accessible food distribution systems can be a barrier for farmers wanting to distribute their food products locally. More effective food distribution systems will improve the sale of farm products, better enabling farmers to connect to consumers. Many crops, such as vegetables, may produce a greater return than current crops, but without processing facilities in Utah or local distribution systems, farmers are unlikely to grow these crops. Local food systems provide the fresh, in-season products that Utah residents increasingly want and desire. Having strong local systems also improves the resiliency of Utah’s food distribution, enabling Utah residents to buy more Utah products and rely less on importing food from places like California and Mexico.

  • Local food systems include the following options:
  • Food hubs and co-ops
  • Farmers markets
  • On-site farm stands (or pick-your-own farms)
  • Community supported agriculture (in which consumers buy a share of a local farm’s projected harvest)
  • Traditional grocery stores, schools, and restaurants

Food hubs are local nodes run by an organization that aims to connect communities and consumers to local food. They give agricultural producers a place to sell their products and strengthen the economic and social relationships of the producers and their surrounding communities. These hubs and co-operatives allow farmers and ranchers to capture profits that typically go to grocery stores in traditional food distribution systems, which increases local producers’ revenues and often decreases the prices of fresh, local products. Food hubs help actively manage the aggregation and distribution of products and often provide farmers and ranchers with technical and marketing assistance to help them create and sell their goods.[1]

A farmers market is a public, recurring event where farmers or their representatives gather together to sell their food and products to consumers.[2] Farmers markets facilitate personal connections that mutually benefit local farmers, shoppers, and communities. These markets, for instance, allow producers to sell unique products that cannot be found in grocery stores, and they help the community learn about healthy eating and where local products are grown. As a community experience, farmers markets are places where people can meet their neighbors, friends, and farmers in an environment that is friendly, educational, and enriching.

Farm stands are permanent or temporary structures, usually operated at specific times of the year, where farmers display and sell agricultural goods.[3] Successful farm stands are commonly located in places in areas of frequent vehicle traffic where potential customers can easily see farm products and purchase them. These venues offer the community increased access to local foods and allow farmers a flexible option for selling their products. Pick-your-own farms allow consumers to go into farmers’ fields and harvest crops themselves.[4] These farms are marketing channels for those consumers who like to select and purchase fresher, higher-quality, vine-ripened produce at lower prices. Farmers likewise benefit from reduced needs for harvesting and labor, lower equipment costs, and opportunities for larger transactions per customer. Good crop types for this type of operation include berries, tree fruit, pumpkins, and Christmas trees.[5]

In community supported agriculture, growers and consumers support one another and share the risks and benefits of food production.[6] Typically, members or "shareholders" of the farm or garden pledge in advance to cover the anticipated costs of the farm operation and farmer's salary. In return, they receive shares of the farm's harvest throughout the growing season and gain the satisfaction that comes with connecting to the land and participating directly in food production.

Continuing to utilize marketing strategies through Utah’s Own is important in helping Utahns obtain the products they want.[7] Utah’s Own provides information about where people can purchase locally grown products, which helps support and strengthen the county’s agricultural industry. Promoting the sale of local products also positively affects Utah’s economy, as money spent in Utah stays in the local economy, benefiting our small businesses.

Though new food-distribution systems can significantly increase the accessibility of farm-grown produce in Utah County, improving older systems can be an equally effective and viable strategy for some communities. Existing traditional food distribution systems should be modified and improved to better accommodate local farmers and ranchers. By sourcing their food from local farmers and ranchers, grocers, restaurants, and schools can offer healthier and fresher produce and meals while passively educating their communities about local foods. Restaurants and neighborhood grocers should advertise when they use or sell local agricultural products to draw additional customers while simultaneously supporting local producers.

Implementation:

Food Hubs and Co-ops

  • Utah County needs to facilitate the creation of one or more co-ops or food hubs in the county. Depending on the support from the community, the county should provide resources and assistance to advance the process. The Cooperative Grocers’ Information Network has an informative guide about how to start a food hub.[8] The guide contains useful checklists of tasks for each step in creating a food hub.

Farmers Markets

  • Community leaders should improve the marketing of their farmers markets to increase awareness, interest, and demand at these events. Doing so will increase exposure and sales for farmers.
  • Utah County should work with its cities to better understand the needs of farmers market throughout the county and work with communities to create new farmers markets if needed. The University of California’s Small Farm Program has a detailed step-by-step guide to starting a new farmers market in a community.[9]

On-Site Farm Stands and Pick-Your-Own Farms

  • Farmers whose crops and operations are compatible with a pick-your-own strategy should research if such an approach would be beneficial to them. The University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture has a good guide to help farmers who are thinking of establishing a pick-your-own operation.[10] This guide lists common pick-your-own crops and outlines strategies to identify good business practices and potential risks.

Community Supported Agriculture

  • Farmers should investigate if community-supported agricultural production is a viable and beneficial option for them. The North Carolina Cooperative Extension has a resource guide with tips for farmers interested in starting a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program.[11]

Traditional Food Distribution Systems

  • Whenever possible, grocery stores, schools, restaurants, and other existing food-distribution networks should work with local producers (abiding by all necessary regulations) to use and sell local food. Private organizations should partner with many local producers to establish systems that better link businesses and schools to existing sources of local food.

Examples:

The Provo Farmers Market is a particularly successful local farmers market in Utah County. The market is held weekly in Provo’s Pioneer Park and features activities, local food, artists, and other vendors. The market provides local residents an opportunity to easily access local food while also serving as a lively community hub during the warmer months. Though the market is immensely popular, it only runs from June to October, so outside that timeframe, local food must be distributed through other avenues.[12]

Utah also has a community supported agriculture (CSA) program dedicated to connecting farms across the state to their local communities. Community members can purchase a share of a local farmer’s produce, often at below market price.[13] CSA Utah already partners with many growers in Utah County, though there is always room for expansion. The organization’s website lists places where people can purchase shares from local farmers and growers.[14]

Utah has only two co-ops, both located in the Salt Lake Valley. The Community Co-Op is located in Salt Lake City and features a direct-to-door delivery service, allowing community members to receive fresh, local produce without having to leave their houses. The Community Co-Op prides itself on averaging prices that are 20% to 50% lower than what is found in most grocery stores.[15] The Utah Co-Op is located in Murray and also sells local produce at lower prices than major grocery stores. Though most co-ops require a membership, membership in the Utah Co-Op is free for Utah residents.[16]

Utah's Own program was established to create a consumer culture that allows customers to choose Utah products at retail stores, restaurants, and everywhere else consumers shop. When Utah consumers purchase locally produced or grown products, our economy grows; $1.00 spent on a Utah product results in $4.00– $6.00 being added to the economy. In addition, purchasing local products enhances the environment by reducing the carbon footprint of those products.[17]

Utah's Own has a comprehensive website where consumers can search for local farms and ranches and find information about specific farms and where to purchase local goods. Farmers can join Utah’s Own at no cost. "Members enjoy the benefits of business-to-business networking and resourceful training via statewide chapters. Chapter leaders, selected from current membership, serve across the state and offer a valuable resource to current and potential business owners. . . . In addition, all members are encouraged to use the trademarked Utah’s Own brand in their local marketing efforts, as well as participate in the Utah’s Own events offered throughout the year.”[18]


Promote Agritourism

Who can implement this: State and county lawmakers, advocacy organizations, and agricultural producers

Agritourism is any activity that allows the public to view or experience agriculture for recreational, entertainment, or educational purposes. Agritourism includes, but is not limited to, agricultural activities for families, ranching activities, and historic, cultural, or natural attractions. Agritourism benefits farm owners by exposing their farms to the community and by providing a source of additional income (which can increase the economic viability of small farms). As they participate in unique, hands-on farming experiences, agritourists may learn to see food differently and develop a desire to protect local farms. Though agritourism may not be viable for all farming operations, it has been valuable and successful for several farms in Utah County.

Implementation:

  • It is recommended that Utah County’s agricultural producers encourage state and county lawmakers to create county-specific codes and policies that promote and incentivize agritourism. These codes would establish the guidelines and parameters of agritourism and make it a better-known and viable source of income for farmers and ranchers.
  • Governmental and non-profit farming organizations should ensure that farmers and ranchers have knowledge about the benefits of agritourism and how to establish an agritourism program on their property. These organizations should streamline the process of establishing and conducting agritourism and make agritourism law more understandable and accessible. Though putting up a liability notice for visitors is the only step farmers are strictly required to take before beginning an agritourism business, they should consider several other matters in order to maximize the possibility that their ventures will succeed:
    • Farmers and ranchers must determine what activities they want to have available on the farm, what they want to sell, and the staffing needs for these services and products. They can look at other successful agritourism farms in their region to determine what has been successful in the past and what niche market they can accommodate.
    • Agricultural producers must create a business plan based on the material and staffing needs of the agritourism operation. Pricing for both admission and products must also be determined. Local community colleges or business centers often assist entrepreneurs looking to create business plans
    • Agritourism businesses must ensure that they comply with local regulations and the health department and provide needs like parking and ADA accessibility. These businesses must also ensure they are covered by liability insurance.
    • Farmers and ranchers must establish and implement a marketing plan to attract agritourists. These marketing plans can range in complexity and are crucial to the success of an agritourism business.[1]

Examples:

Rowley’s Red Barn is one of the state’s most successful agritourism operations. The farm has a thriving school-tour system and hosts events for visitors year-round. The farm operates its own store and ice cream parlor that serves ice cream, cider slushes, shakes, and a variety of fountain sodas. Most small-scale producers may not be able to create such a large agritourism business, but Rowley’s Red Barn is a prime example of how to identify a specific agritourism niche and expand offerings and services to meet the demands of that niche.

The Petersen Family Farm in South Jordan holds a food truck event every Friday night from April through October.[2] This event brings in a variety of food trucks and helps to expose people to farm products in a unique and enjoyable setting.

Weber County has a specific code that governs agritourism uses and clearly explains how farmers and ranchers can utilize agritourism on their farms.[3] The code explicitly outlines agritourism activities and makes their limitations and benefits understandable.

The University of California Davis has a Small Farm Program that focuses on agritourism. Through resources such as classes and projects, the program brings together community members, students, and local farms, to explore different forms of agritourism and analyze how the relatively new field is changing as more people begin participating in it.[4]

 


Develop Succession Planning, Training, and Education for Farmers and Ranchers

Who can implement this: County officials, governmental organizations, and advocacy organizations

According to the U.S. Labor Department, the average age of a farmer or rancher is 58 years old, an average that is gradually increasing.[1] [2] The average age of U.S. farm operators increased from 55.3 in 2002 to 58.3 in 2012 according to the Census of Agriculture.[3] In addition, the University of Vermont’s FarmLASTS Project estimates that 70% of the nation’s private farmland will change ownership within the next 20 years.[4] The future of farming is in question because fewer individuals are choosing farming as an occupation than before and an increasing number of young adults are pursuing careers other than farming and ranching. Proper succession planning helps ensure that people are available and ready to take over a farm’s business when its owners retire.

Succession planning is the process of formally transitioning management and ownership of an agricultural business from one generation to the next. Since individuals’ relationships and situations vary, there is no single plan that can be used by every family or business. Some examples of plans involve an outright sale of the family farm to the younger generation (or to a third party), rely primarily on passing down lands to other generations, or involve forming businesses to help make a transition possible in the future or dividing a large operation into smaller, discrete parts to support different families.

Succession planning permits a farming family to transfer management and ownership of their business in the way they want. It also encourages the family to address legal, tax, and family issues in advance (when they are best prepared), rather than being forced to deal with them quickly after the death of the farmer or rancher.[5]

Preparing farm operations for those who will take over ensures that the next generation will be able to continue Utah’s farming legacy. Many small family farms don’t have clear plans in place to guide a future transition in ownership. Not establishing clear succession plans or identifying potential candidates to take over farm operations can result in farms having no heirs, farmers being unable to retire, and agricultural land being sold for other uses.

Implementation:

  • Utah County, the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, and private organizations should offer training and outreach to educate farmers on the details and challenges of transitioning management and ownership of farmland to different generations.
  • A list of important steps for succession planning might include:[6]
  1. Defining goals and objectives: Do farmers want to pass along the entire business and its assets, or do they want to lease the land?
  2. Identifying potential successors and creating a timeline for succession
  3. Scheduling meetings with advisors (an attorney, accountant, financial advisor, exit planner, etc.) to discuss how to implement succession and to finish estate planning
  4. Creating plans for the business and for retirement
  5. Forming appropriate business entities and creating legal agreements such as an operating agreement and a buy-sell agreement
  6. Establishing a plan for training successors and transitioning ownership
  7. Communicating throughout the planning process and making revisions and adjustments as needed

Examples:

The New Jersey Department of Agriculture consolidates many farm-transfer and succession-planning resources for its retiring farmers.[7]

Pennsylvania has a Preserved Farms Resource Center dedicated to succession planning. The center helps retiring farmers connect with younger generations of farmers and helps new farmers establish themselves within the farming community.[8]

Iowa’s Ag Link Program connects beginning farmers who need agricultural lands to retiring farmers who do not have heirs or successors. This program is a powerful resource for retiring farmers and allows communities to more easily maintain agricultural lands across generations.[9]

Utah State University as well as private organizations like the Farm Bureau Financial Services assist farmers in transitioning management and ownership of agricultural businesses from one generation to the next.[10]


Increase Financial Assistance and Access to Agricultural Lands for Beginning and Existing Farmers and Ranchers

Who can implement this: Federal, state, and county lawmakers; governmental organizations; advocacy organizations; and agricultural producers

Many individuals face significant barriers when trying to start a career in farming and ranching, such as limited access to lands and markets, inflation of land prices, high costs, and a lack of support networks. The impact of these barriers can be seen on a national scale: from 2002 to 2012, the number of farm operators who were 75 years old and older grew by 20 percent, while the number of operators under 25 decreased 30 percent.[1]

Beginning farmers often struggle to afford the initial cost of buying land. One of the most significant barriers to entry, land prices are rising in much of Utah County. As a result, alternative land-acquisition and land-leasing programs are emerging as a crucial resource for farmers who are unable begin farming or ranching through traditional avenues.

New farmers and ranchers often have difficulty receiving financial aid, especially if they do not have the assets needed to invest in a farm or an established and extensive track record in the industry. Farmers who want to farm using less traditional methods or utilize new farming technologies can find it even more challenging to secure loans and funding.[2]

Existing farmers also need resources to help support their businesses. Financial resources need to be expanded to assist farmers who are established assets in local agriculture. More resources are needed to meet the financial realities of farming in Utah and to properly incentivize farming.

Many small-scale farmers find it difficult to make agricultural production a profitable business. Farming has traditionally been a risky enterprise because of inconsistent income and the constant risks of crop loss, price collapses, significant weather events, and external price fluctuations. Financial assistance helps farmers overcome these obstacles and continue farming.

Implementation:

  • Utah County lawmakers, governmental organizations, and farming organizations should organize a summit to connect young farmers to older farmers. The summit would provide younger farmers with mentors and encourage older farmers to pass on knowledge about local farming to the next generation. This summit could also pair farmers with organizations that administer financial-assistance programs.
  • Nonprofit and governmental organizations should examine available strategies and determine which resources fit well together, where gaps exist, and where additional outreach and education is needed to help connect farmers and ranchers to financial resources.
  • It is recommended that farm organizations like the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Utah Farm Bureau coordinate together to streamline state and federal financial programs. Existing programs for farmers and ranchers should not require complicated applications or extended processes. Financial programs, grants, and loans often target practicing farmers, who often do not have the time for lengthy application processes. These organizations should make changes to ensure that existing programs are easily accessible to most farmers.
  • It is recommended that state and county lawmakers establish additional land-acquisition and land-leasing programs to increase beginning farmers’ opportunities to access lands.
  • Major private and public landowners in Utah County should consider leasing vacant land to beginning farmers to increase the county’s agricultural output and provide beginning farmers with valuable experience with small-scale agricultural production.
  • Financial assistance for Utah farmers is primarily available at the federal level. The state and county should establish new financial programs to encourage farming in Utah County and to remove some of the challenges facing farmers in the region. As opposed to nationwide resources, local programs can be more tailored and targeted to the needs of farmers in Utah County. Utah County commissioners and the Utah State Legislature should consider expanding assistance programs for farmers in Utah Valley as well as the rest of the state.
  • It is recommended that lawmakers and farm organizations work to create additional programs to fulfill identified needs and find ways to help existing farmers be more financially secure and profitable.

Examples:

New Mexico has hosted several farming and ranching summits that have successfully connected new agricultural producers with older farmers and spread knowledge of new and more efficient farming practices.[3] The New Mexico Organic Farming Conference, for example, is a yearly farming summit that focuses on sharing experience and expertise through workshops and sessions.[4]

Utah State University Extension has hosted farm and ranching workshops, though they have not been held consistently and future summits would ideally be larger and involve more ranchers and farmers.[5]

In 2015, Salt Lake County launched Farmlink, a program focused on connecting interested urban farmers with vacant lands that could be used for food production. These lands are either privately owned or publically owned by entities such as Salt Lake County or a municipality. The program was incentivized through property tax reductions for landowners who were willing to lease their land for urban commercial farming.[6]


Treat and Promote Agriculture as an Important State Industry Cluster

Who can implement this: State lawmakers, universities, governmental organizations, and advocacy organizations

Establishing agriculture as an industry cluster in Utah would emphasize its importance to the state’s economy and better connect farmers to resources and other support. As a result, the agriculture industry will become more sustainable and economically feasible.

The purpose of industry clusters is described by the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development as follows: “With the Utah Strategic Industry Clusters, Utah works to create sustainable advantages around emerging (and mature) sectors by combining and aligning a wide variety of business interests, including: industry experts, research universities, capital, fresh technology, and environmental concerns.”[1] Agriculture is an important industry in Utah, and the economic impacts of agriculture are dramatic. According to a 2011 Utah State University study, the agricultural processing and production sectors together account for $17.5 billion in total economic output after adjusting for multiplier effects. The two agriculture sectors account for about 78,000 jobs and 14.1 percent of total state output.[2] Having a cluster would show the state’s economic and legislative leaders that the state considers agriculture to be a viable, lucrative, and important business sector in Utah.

Implementation:

  • Agricultural experts from universities, state agricultural organizations, the farming industry, and advocacy organizations need to educate elected officials and governments on the importance of agriculture to the state's economy because clusters are established based on what these decision makers see as core strengths of the state’s economy.
  • It is recommended that existing state-level organizations like the Utah Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency offices, the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development promote agriculture as a state industry cluster. State universities should also teach Utahns about the importance of agriculture to the state’s economy.
  • Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and other economic and development organizations should use the following six-step procedure, or a suitable equivalent, to create and implement industry clusters:[3]
    • Investigate: Analyze local and national trends, perform outreach to verify data, and select clusters that have the most potential for growth.
    • Inventory: Define the cluster specifically and inventory organizations and institutions important to the cluster, key leaders in the industry, and policies and practices that affect the cluster.
    • Convene: Review and confirm the cluster’s focus and scope; identify the needs, opportunities, and obstacles the cluster faces; and identify areas of strong mutual interest among stakeholders.
    • Diagnose: Synthesize findings into a market analysis, select strategic interventions, and develop an action plan with stakeholders.
    • Act: Establish clear expectations for cluster partners, allow leadership to emerge, and implement the identified interventions.
    • Evaluate: Analyze how well the interventions achieved their goals, including how well the interventions created job growth in the cluster, and explore possibilities for additional interventions and strategies.

Examples:

One of Oregon’s core business clusters is agriculture. Oregon estimates agriculture provides 1 of every 8 jobs in the state and makes up 15% of the state’s economy. The establishment of agriculture as an industry cluster has allowed Oregon to research agriculture’s economic weaknesses and strengths and create initiatives to protect and encourage the state’s agricultural businesses in the future.[4]


Expand Farmland by Adapting Systems and Building Water Infrastructure That Will Bring Quality Water to Prime Farm Soils

Who can implement this: State, county, and city lawmakers; water conservancy districts; and infrastructure-funding boards

Expanding and building water infrastructure will bring more high-quality water to farms and ranches and help Utah provide food to its growing population. Some areas in Utah County do not have enough irrigation water to make farming viable, and in some areas the water quality is not good enough to sustain orchards or other high-value crops. For example, Cedar Valley contains many viable agricultural lands that are not farmable because there is no available water in the valley. The cost of building and expanding water infrastructure projects can be prohibitive, but if the projects are carefully planned and executed they can provide new farming opportunities in areas that currently have limited water availability and increase the amount of high-functioning agricultural lands available in the county and state.

Water use in the future must be balanced between agricultural and residential use.[1] Future water infrastructure projects should coordinate with planned residential growth in order to cut back on construction costs and to use the water as efficiently as possible. One stakeholder mentioned that “agriculture can’t pay for every water infrastructure project; people need to realize that these projects will benefit the entire region in the future.”

As communities convert agricultural lands into urban lands, the water infrastructure that existed to primarily service farms needs to be adapted to provide water not only to the remaining farms, but also to the new homes and businesses. Careful planning is important to appropriately balance water use and to meet all of the water needs from users in a community.

Utah’s Water Quality Revolving Fund is an important resource for funding key water-conservation and increased-efficiency strategies. This fund helps finance state projects including pipeline construction, ditch lining, and other projects. As legislative focus has shifted to other areas, money for this revolving fund has been lacking in recent years.

Reusing water will likely become an increasingly important strategy to balance the water needs of agricultural producers in the county with the needs of growing numbers of residential and commercial users. High-quality water is expensive, and reusing water can be a cost-effective and efficient way to increase quality water supplies. For water reuse to become more viable in Utah County, existing water infrastructure systems must be evaluated and made more efficient. Impacts on downstream users also need to be considered.

Implementation:

Utah County and individual cities could explore the viability of establishing local funds to match the offerings from the state Water Quality Revolving Fund. This additional funding for key water projects could increase the efficiency of agricultural and residential water use across Utah County and the state. Some support exists on the federal level for rural agricultural infrastructure projects, and matching that support at the county and state level would help bring water to unirrigated soils in Utah County.

  • It is recommended that county and city lawmakers establish smaller-scale funds for water or agriculture-based projects in Utah County.
  • These local funds could then be matched by the state Water Quality Revolving Fund to pay for crucial water projects that will improve water management and conservation in different regions.
  • Water infrastructure projects suggested by communities, lawmakers, and regional water agencies would then receive needed funding. These projects could range from increasing water efficiency to expanding the amount of agricultural lands in Utah County.
  • State agencies should explore reusing water as a way to increase agricultural water supplies across the state. These agencies should also create specific regulations to ensure the quality and responsible use of reused water.
  • Water organizations and state agencies should look for ways to improve the existing water-distribution system by reducing the amount of water lost through evaporation, pipe leaks, ground seepage, etc.

Examples:

The Central Utah Water Conservancy District encourages water conservation through rebates, loans, and programs that promote new water projects in Utah County and southern Salt Lake County.[2] In Utah County, the conservancy district has mainly focused on upgrading the Utah Valley Water Treatment Plant to provide municipal and irrigation water to communities.[3]

In 2005, the Central Utah Water Conservancy District’s Central Water Development Project (CWP) helped to provide water to Cedar Valley. The district purchased water rights from the former Geneva Steel Company and combined them with other ground and surface-water rights.[4] As a result, more water was brought to an area that had previously limited water supplies for farming. The increased amount of water also helped the towns of Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs grow.

The 2015 Utah Senate Bill 216 allows the Office of Energy Development to issue a tax credit to an entity developing a high-cost infrastructure project.[5] This provision could incentivize the development of agricultural water projects and increase water delivery to potential farming areas.

Because agricultural water supplies are being stressed by the demands of expanding residential and municipal development, California agricultural producers are increasingly looking into reusing water to meet irrigation demands.[6] State departments have outlined specific regulations for the quality of recycled water in order to mitigate negative effects on human and environmental health. In 2007, California’s Sea Mist farms was the biggest user of recycled water in the world, and their studies showed that their use of recycled water resulted in soil and crop quality that was essentially parallel with those of a neighboring control site.[7]


Promote Urban Agriculture and Community Gardening

Who can implement this: City officials, communities, governmental organizations, and advocacy organizations

 Wasatch Community Gardens

Wasatch Community Gardens

Urban agriculture refers to the growing, processing, and distributing of food and other products in urban rather than rural areas. Urban agriculture connects residents in cities to food-growing processes that would normally be inaccessible to them. Urban agriculture positively affects communities, providing both a source of local and healthy food and a place for people to come together and strengthen community ties and relationships.

Urban agriculture includes green-roof gardens, community gardens, and other commercial and noncommercial food production efforts in urban areas. Urban agriculture is valuable because it allows city residents to become involved in and learn more about the food production process. Local gardens provide educational opportunities for residents of all ages, and the benefits of exposing elementary school students, for instance, to urban agriculture are particularly popular and well documented.[1] Utah County is already home to several existing pockets of urban agriculture that could connect the urban community to the agricultural sector socially and economically. Traditional agriculture could also be affected as urban residents become more aware of the experiences and benefits of agricultural production.

Accessory uses on small parcels of land are another option for agriculture in primarily residential areas. Being able to produce food for personal use or commercial sale can expand agriculture on these parcels, often considered “lost” from an agricultural standpoint. Streamlining accessory-use processes and educating residents interested in small-scale agriculture can expand the prevalence of agriculture in Utah County and promote a broader appreciation for larger agricultural efforts.

Urban agriculture further benefits cities by acting as green infrastructure, reducing storm water runoff, increasing greenspace, reducing the urban heat island effect, and converting vacant lots into lively spaces for food production.[2] Urban agriculture is also particularly beneficial to low-income and otherwise disadvantaged families because it provides low-cost food products and encourages people to better integrate with their local communities.[3]

Implementation

  • It is recommended that city councils enact ordinances and work with the state legislature to provide tax breaks and other incentives for urban farming, particularly the establishment of community gardens.
  • Community gardening organizations should partner with local governments to pilot different forms of urban agriculture. One of the most popular and widely implemented examples of this is temporary urban gardening, where gardens are planted in underused, vacant lots.[4] Through temporary urban gardening communities can combat blight and test the viability of more permanent urban agriculture.[5]
  • If temporary urban gardens are successful, more permanent urban agriculture should be established. Cities can also work with their communities to bypass the temporary-garden stage and instead immediately implement more permanent community gardens and other forms of urban agriculture.
  • Individuals can adopt accessory agricultural uses on their property, which demonstrates their interest in agriculture on all scales while also increasing the supply of local food in their communities.

Examples:

In 2015, Salt Lake County launched Farmlink, a program focused on connecting interested urban farmers with vacant lands that could be used for food production.[6] The program was incentivized through property tax reductions for landowners who were willing to lease their land for urban commercial farming.

Wasatch Community Gardens is the state’s largest community gardening organization, providing educational and financial resources to help neighborhoods, schools, and families begin community gardens. The organization runs near-weekly classes during the planting and growing seasons.[7]

Utah law allows for conditional agriculture on residential land.[8] Currently, the local planning commission must approve the production of any value-added agricultural products grown as a conditional use on a case-by-case basis.

In 2013, Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones began to be established in California. These zones create tax incentives to encourage both commercial and noncommercial agriculture on lots between 0.1 and 3 acres in urbanized areas across the state.[9]

 


Encourage the Development of Innovative Agricultural Processes and Technology

Who can implement this: Federal, state, and county officials; universities; governmental organizations; and advocacy organizations

Technological innovation can increase the overall efficiency and economic feasibility of the agricultural industry. Research and development of agricultural technology need to be incentivized to help revitalize the farming industry.

Modern farms work much differently than those from just a few decades ago, primarily because of advancements in technology. Today’s farms routinely use sophisticated technologies such as temperature and moisture sensors, aerial images, and GPS technology. Further improving agricultural technology will help increase crop productivity, reduce negative environmental impacts, increase worker safety, and decrease water, fertilizer, and pesticide use.[1]

Technological innovations in agriculture also include vertical farming, drip irrigation, and aquaponics:

  • Vertical farming is the practice of farming food in vertically stacked layers, using technology to control all environmental factors.[2] This agricultural technology helps increase crop production, conserve resources, and expand the availability of local food, especially in urban built-out areas.
  • Drip irrigation is a form of irrigation that saves water and fertilizer through a controlled delivery of water through a network of tubes or pipes to the roots of plants.[3] This technology improves plant growth while allowing farms to use less water.
  • Aquaponics is a system of aquaculture in which the waste produced by farmed fish or other aquatic animals supplies nutrients for plants grown hydroponically, which are then used to purify water.[4] Aquaponics uses less water than traditional farming, does not necessarily require soil, and improves yields compared to traditional farming methods.

Tax credits and other funding options are available at the state and federal level for businesses exploring green business practices and technologies, but agriculture-specific funding is far less common. State or county-specific tax credits or funding options should be used to help Utah farmers and businesses explore new technologies that could benefit agriculture across the state.

Implementation:

  • It is recommended that state and federal agriculture organizations provide loan programs to incentivize farmers in pursuing new technologies to improve their businesses.
    • County lawmakers and farm organizations need to identify gaps in federal and state programs, and should establish more specific programs to incentivize the development and exploration of new farming and ranching technologies.
  • Utah State University and other universities should continue to promote agricultural technology businesses through agricultural technology programs and related research. University classes in agricultural technology should connect farmers in the field with students to give students real-world experiences while improving farm businesses.
  • Governmental and private farm organizations need to help farmers stay up to date on current technologies and explore the viability of implementing technological updates to their processes and operations.

Examples:

Houweling’s Tomatoes is a sustainable greenhouse farm in Mona, Utah, that uses excess heat and C02 from an adjacent natural gas power plant to grow tomato plants. This heat that would otherwise be wasted is instead used to keep the greenhouse warm through the colder months, which allows the farm to grow tomatoes all year round.

Utah State University offers an Agricultural Systems Technology degree program, which combines studies in agricultural and biological sciences with courses in technical and business management skills.[5] The program provides valuable assistance and a solid foundation to aspiring farmers and researchers as they pursue new agricultural technologies and careers in agriculture.

The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service administers Conservation Innovation Grants for the development of new conservation technologies and practices.[6] Though mainly for governments and individuals, the grant is open to any person or business who establishes that their project benefits food safety, soil health, wildlife, and/or the economics of farming.

 


Create Local Agricultural Commissions That Specifically Promote Agriculture in Individual Communities

Who can implement this: County and city lawmakers, and communities

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Agricultural commissions are standing committees, created by individual cities, that strive to increase the visibility of agriculture in communities. They represent and advocate for the farming community, encouraging the pursuit of agriculture, promoting economic opportunities for farmers and ranchers, and preserving their community’s agricultural businesses and lands.[1] Agricultural commissions are primarily focused on connecting local farmers and ranchers to resources that help agriculture flourish in each individual community.

Utah County farmers should continually take advantage of the increased networking, educational, and economic opportunities provided by agricultural commissions. These commissions allow farmers to be more involved in the decisions of local government, increasing communication between farmers, politicians, and city leaders. Improving the often-lacking dialogue between farmers and local leaders is important in identifying and resolving challenges and will ultimately strengthen the agricultural industry in Utah.

Implementation:

Agricultural commissions are formed by a vote during a county or city council meeting. Massachusetts, where agricultural commissions have significant support, lists the following steps for the creation of an agricultural commission:[2]

  • Identify leaders and organizers to explore the possibility of an agricultural commission in the area.
  • Assess interest for an agricultural commission in the community. Talk to farmers, residents, boards and committees, and community decision makers.
  • Gather the support of farmers and town leadership.
  • Organize a public informational meeting.
  • Invite farmers, residents, and the public through written letters of invitation, press releases, and newspapers articles.
  • If possible, request that members of established agricultural commissions speak about why they organized, what they do, and the benefits to agriculture.
  • Answer the questions: Is an agricultural commission important for our town? Do you think we should organize an agricultural commission in town?
  • Gain commitment from participants to serve on an agricultural commission steering committee.
  • Publicize newly established steering committee meetings.
  • Draft an agricultural commission by-law and town meeting warrant article with input from town boards and town counsel.
  • Research advocates and opposition.
  • Present articles at a town meeting for discussion and vote. This presentation is provided by well informed and prepared advocates.

More information can be found in the Massachusetts Association of Agricultural Commissions’ Toolkit for Organizing a Town Agricultural Commission.[3]

Examples:

In several of its cities, Massachusetts has agricultural commissions that focus on the unique agricultural issues facing each town and community. The Massachusetts Association of Agricultural Commissions supports agricultural commissions by coordinating the commissions’ resources and relations with state and federal agencies, private and nonprofit organizations, and elected officials.[4] Existing agricultural commissions tackle a range of issues ranging from marketing coordination to local disputes, and their budgets range from $0–$1,000 per year.[5]

The Utah Association of Conservation Districts fills a somewhat similar role, establishing separate districts across Utah and incentivize landowners to protect soil, water, and other natural resources.[6] However, conservations districts do not focus specifically on agriculture.

 


Strengthen Relationships with Utah Universities to Research Agricultural Strategies, Economics, and Technologies; Model Agriculture Futures; and Promote Agricultural Education

Who can implement this: State and county officials, universities, advocacy organizations, and agricultural producers

Local research conducted by academics and researchers will help Utah County farmers better understand and improve agriculture in their region. The circumstances for farming are constantly changing in Utah County and across the state as urban and suburban development expands and economic markets continue to shift. Researchers at Utah State University should model a variety of agriculture scenarios to help plan for the future of farming in Utah County. They should also establish new strategies that will benefit food growers and expand the state’s agriculture industry.

Researching new agricultural technologies and ways to improve older technologies is crucial in making farming more efficient in terms of time, water, and crop yield. Continuing to research agriculture will help secure Utah’s future food supply and economic growth, especially as it offers specific suggestions for what strategies and tools will best benefit local agriculture. In addition to local universities, private-sector incentives will be important resources in helping Utah develop advancements to agricultural technology and strategies.

Some agricultural technologies focus on increasing crop yields and exploring new ways to produce food. For example, two recent and widely renowned agricultural technologies are vertical farming and aquaponics. Utah County farmers may be unaware of some of these innovations and their benefits to crop yield and efficiency and should be educated about these and other technological advancements in real-world situations.

Since discoveries made in a lab are not readily available to farmers, outreach is an important element of this strategy. Farmers need to be informed of the latest agricultural strategies and production methods so they can better adopt and use such innovations. Increasing farmers’ knowledge on these topics could result in higher yields, less risk, and greater profitability.

Implementation:

  • Utah State University has the academic infrastructure and resources to implement this strategy. The university should enhance its partnerships with Utah County agricultural producers so that it can research agriculture and strengthen communication between the school and farmers. Utah State University should also create a scope of needs to find out how to achieve this goal and to look for ways to fund research. Research should be focused on topics that will most benefit Utah agriculture.
  • Utah County universities (particularly Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University) should continue to contribute to agricultural research. An educational partnership between Utah State University and the universities in Utah County is necessary to holistically explore food-production strategies and the future of agriculture in the county.
  • Universities should do the following:
    • Determine a scope of needs and goals to determine a short-term focus for strategy research, modeling, and/or education.
    • Determine the amount of funding needed for research and identify funding sources.
    • Decide which universities and agricultural producers will be involved, and outline their roles in the research process.
    • Maintain and expand partnerships between universities and agricultural producers, and begin more targeted agriculture research, modeling, and education efforts.

Examples:

Utah State University has some of the most varied and robust agricultural education programs in the country. It offers extensive information on many agricultural topics, ranging from agricultural education to pest management.[1] The university’s Agricultural Experiment Station is dedicated to researching agriculture and improving the availability and quality of natural resources for all Utah residents, and the College of Agricultural and Applied Sciences has departments dedicated to the study of applied economics in Utah’s rural areas, animal and veterinary sciences, plants and soils, sciences and technology, environmental planning, and how to help the future of agriculture in Utah County.[2]

Utah State University is the state’s leading institution in agricultural experimentation and technology research.[3] Committed to ensuring that the United States produces a self-sufficient food supply, the university investigates new technologies and operates labs that research “food safety and processing, plant and animal genetics, and economic and social forces that shape families and communities.”[4]


Educate Utah Children About Agriculture

Who can implement this: State, county, and city officials; communities; advocacy organizations, agricultural producers; and school districts

The best way to ensure that agriculture will be valued by future generations is to connect children with farms in ways that will leave a lasting impression. Through creating unique educational agricultural experiences, which are not currently covered by the state’s curriculum, future generations will be educated about local food and about the food-production process. These experiences will help children understand where their food comes from while also opening up communication among farmers, teachers, and community members and promoting agriculture as a possible career path.

In the short term, individual communities and schools should create programs that provide children with hands-on farming experiences. Ideally, these small-scale efforts will eventually result in changes to the statewide curriculum, establishing agriculture as a fundamental part of Utahns’ education.

Implementation:

  • Communities and school boards should create and promote programs that connect schools to farms. Additionally, schools and local farms should coordinate to establish these opportunities under existing programs, especially if expanded or made more accessible.
  • School districts should evaluate and revise existing curriculum to make agricultural education a priority.
  • It is recommended that educators and farmers work together to advocate for agricultural education becoming a bigger part of school curricula. Outreach should be made to local lawmakers as well as statewide organizations.
  • Policymakers, educators, and farmers need to work together to fill in gaps in agricultural education; they should establish new programs for students at every grade level.
  • Zoning laws could be modified to allow small livestock animals, like chickens and 4–H animals, to be raised on school property as part of agricultural education programs.

Examples:

The Utah County Farm Bureau and Utah State University Extension hosts Farm Field Days every year, which allows elementary-school students to visit local farms and directly experience local agricultural. Farm Field Days can be organized by any group of educators and agricultural producers, and the Utah Farm Bureau has funds to meet the cost of separately organized Farm Field Days.[1] The learning stations at Farm Field Days are designed to complement the curriculum objective, set by the Utah Office of Education, to maximize educational benefits for students.

Utah County 4–H established an Urban Sheep Project that allows students in the city to raise their own sheep on a nearby farm, providing them with valuable firsthand experience with livestock.[2]

The Utah State Office of Education has partnered with many Utah agencies and businesses to establish Agricultural Education Pathways, a program for high-school students interested in pursuing a career in one of five different agricultural focus areas. Pathways explores the different ways students can better understand, value, and become involved in agriculture in Utah. However, this program is not part of the statewide required curriculum and exists only as elective high-school courses that are limited in availability depending on location.[3] Many new agriculture jobs are opening up nationwide, and making agriculture a larger part of Utah students’ education will encourage them to pursue career opportunities in agriculture and strengthen the industry within the state.

The Future Farmers of America (FFA) is an organization for students looking to one day become part of the agricultural industry in any form. The FFA has individual chapters in each state, and the Utah branch provides scholarships and learning opportunities for Utah students interested in agriculture.[4]


Educate Landowners and Residents About the Value of Agriculture and Local Food

Who can implement this: State and county officials, universities, governmental organizations, advocacy organizations, and agricultural producers

Utah residents care about agriculture. The visioning process in Envision Utah’s Your Utah, Your Future revealed that Utahns want the state’s agricultural sector to thrive and expand. Many agricultural education efforts are directed toward students, leaving adults with few ways to learn about agriculture and its importance in their communities. A broader agricultural education initiative would provide Utah County residents with information and encourage them to purchase local products and vote in favor of local farmers and ranchers, thereby helping strengthen the viability of local food production in their communities.

Understanding and connections to agricultural lands has steadily decreased among urban residents. Outreach efforts should be made to help people learn about the challenges farms face, understand that converting farms into urban lands negatively affects the state’s ability to produce local food, find out where fresh food can be purchased, recognize the environmental tradeoffs associated with having food produced far away versus locally, and appreciate the value of having fresh food available in the region.

Implementation:

  • Statewide organizations (like the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food), universities (like Utah State University), private organizations (like the Utah Farm Bureau), and agricultural producers should strengthen existing partnerships and explore the best ways to educate the public about agriculture.
  • This team or organizations and individuals should create an outreach strategy to educate landowners, residents, and other groups of people who may struggle to find information about supporting agriculture in their communities. The group should reach out to seasoned farmers, gardeners, food preservers, and other experts in order to enhance general education and better understand the opportunities and challenges inherent in Utah County’s agriculture.
  • This team should hold workshops, teach free classes, and/or create deliverable documents that aim to increase general and specific knowledge about agriculture for various groups of Utah County residents. These efforts should be outreach driven in the hopes of educating a diverse range of people.

The county and state fair should continue to educate Utahns about the benefits of local agriculture. While venues already include booths about farming and ranching, these events should include more information about the condition of agriculture in Utah and inform attendees about the benefits of farming and how they can encourage and preserve agriculture in their communities.

Examples:

The Inter-Faith Food Shuttle of Raleigh, North Carolina, runs a teaching farm where volunteers from any profession can learn about agricultural production by obtaining hands-on experience at a working farm and growing food for the local community. This teaching farm is a rare example of a program that allows adults to learn more about agriculture and get a glimpse into how food is grown.[1]

Utah State University Extension has a strong history of agricultural outreach. The USU Food Sense program educates community members at local farmers markets and promotes fresh, local food. Concerned lawmakers and organizations should work directly with the university to better inform the public about agriculture and local food. Other organizations or universities could also adopt USU’s model of outreach and education.[2]

 


Educate Elected Officials Across the County About the Importance of Agriculture and Their Roles in Promoting Its Future

Who can implement this: State, county, and city officials; universities; governmental organizations; advocacy organizations; and agricultural producers

Support for agriculture in Utah County among elected officials can vary widely, especially as new people with new ideas are voted in during every election cycle. Though land-use practices in Utah County often do not reflect the importance of sustaining agriculture, elected officials should prioritize agriculture in their agenda because of its tremendous economic and cultural effects on life in Utah County.

Though agricultural education is crucial for younger generations, older generations should not be overlooked in farming education efforts. Elected officials in Utah County should be continually educated about the current conditions and future possibilities of agriculture in the county. In some regions across the nation, hosting farm tours for elected officials has helped leaders better understand agriculture’s role in their communities. These tours have also allowed leaders to receive hands-on farming experiences, which help them better understand the benefits and opportunities provided by of agriculture, as well as the challenges farmers and ranchers face.

Policymakers would also benefit from assistance in writing grants to apply for funding that would support agriculture in their jurisdictions. The grant-writing process needs to be made more accessible and approachable through educational programs. Having county and city officials hold grant-writing workshops with farmers may also be helpful.

Implementation:

  • Agricultural experts from universities, state agricultural organizations, the farming industry, and advocacy organizations should continue to reach out to elected officials to help lawmakers understand the importance of agriculture in Utah County.
  • These experts should hold yearly field days to educate newly elected officials about farming and to connect them with important agricultural producers and agricultural businesses. Building relationships among elected officials, agricultural experts, advocacy organizations, and individual producers is crucial in ensuring that lawmakers have all the information needed to understand and create laws regarding agriculture.

Examples:

The Utah Farm Bureau is politically active and involved in educating lawmakers about local and statewide issues that affect agriculture. The organization believes that change happens at a grassroots level and works closely at the county level to implement changes. The Utah Farm Bureau also promotes agricultural education at all levels, educating community members from lawmakers to students about different aspects of agriculture.[1]