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.
- 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.
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.
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.