What Land Works Best?

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1 What Land Works Best? Hitting Pay Dirt Purpose Students will identify crops grown in all Utah counties and explain how climate, water, and soil type help to determine where crops are grown. Students will identify where major crops are grown in the United States and learn map reading techniques. Time: 1½ hours Grade Level: Elementary Materials Where in the US did my food come from? activity sheet, 1 per student Utah Agriculture Activity Map, available at utah.agclassroom.org; search keyword map Utah Agricultural Products Questions activity sheet for display Rooftop Farming activity sheet for display *Note: This lesson plan can easily be simulated for other states by using two websites the USDA s Census of Agriculture website at usda.gov and nationalatlas.gov, an interactive map generating tool that will allow you to create layers and keys that represent different agricultural statistics across the US. Background Utah has 54 million acres of land and is the 13th largest state in the United States. More than half of Utah s land is federally owned. Privately owned farmland make up about 21% of Utah s land area, and most of that land is used as pasture for livestock. According to the 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture, only 15% of Utah s farmland is used to grow crops, accounting for 32% of the value of Utah s agricultural output. Most crop farms are concentrated in the Wasatch Front, a narrow strip of land extending approximately 100 miles north and south of Salt Lake City at the base of the Wasatch Range. Snowmelt from the mountains provides irrigation water for the valleys below. This is also where some of the best soils in the state are located. Three-fifths of the cropland is devoted to wheat and hay. Hay is the number one crop grown in Utah. Native grass and alfalfa are the most popular kinds of hay to grow. Alfalfa grows best with irrigation in a climate that has cold winters and warm summers. It is drought resistant, which means it can survive even when there s limited rain or irrigation. In eastern Box Elder County, a large area of mountainside terraces is occupied by fruit orchards. This area is known as the Utah Fruitway, and its farmers grow some of the finest peaches, apricots, melons, squash, and other fruits and vegetables to be found anywhere. Utah County is also known for its fruit production. Davis and Weber counties lead in the production of onions, another important Utah crop. Most of the onions grown in Utah end up in restaurant food chains. To the north and east in Cache Valley, dryland grain is grown among irrigated fields of alfalfa. Livestock and livestock products account for 68% of Utah s annual agricultural output. Dairy farming is very important in the irrigated valleys west and north of Salt Lake City. Beef cattle graze wherever adequate grass and water exist. Sheep are raised in less favorable environments, particularly the desert basins of the west. Sanpete County is known for it large number of sheep and turkeys. Unfortunately, some of Utah s best farmland is being lost to rapid growth and development. Between 1982 and 2007, Utah lost 300,000 acres of farmland. Years ago, our communities were built next to the best ground so farmers would be near their farms. As those communities have grown into towns and cities, much of our farmland has been paved and built over. Throughout the nation there is concern about the loss of farmland to urban development. Every day farms and countryside disappear as a result of suburban sprawl, industrial development, and the construction of new roads and highways. In 2007, 78% of the nation s vegetables and melons and 67% of its dairy products were produced in counties subject to urban pressure. Many people think that the loss of farmland is primarily an issue for farmers. Loss of farmland should be of concern to everyone it can affect food prices, property taxes, and the environment we live in. Farmland is important not only because it is the source of the food we eat, but also because of its scenic beauty, the wildlife habitat it can provide, and the role it plays in preserving unique cultures and traditions. Utah Agriculture in the Classroom 1 utah.agclassroom.org

2 Vocabulary alfalfa: legume crop high in protein, dried into hay and used especially by dairy farmers to feed their cows urban: in or relating to cities and densely populated areas; little land area available for agriculture rural: sparsely populated areas, land area typically used for agriculture Answers to Utah Agricultural Products Questions 1. In Utah, crops are grown where there is water. Geographically, mountains are a good indicator of where the most water is available. Crops are grown near mountains in the valleys with adequate water, adequate (loam) soils, and where slopes are at a minimum. Orchards are an exception. Many orchards in Utah are planted on the foothills; still, they are near water. 2. Hay is drought tolerant. Hay is also needed to feed the state s large livestock industry. 3. Utah has a lot of rangeland. The plants that grow on the range produce good beef, but the forage is not high enough in protein to produce a high volume and quality of milk. 4. Answers will vary. 5. Answers will vary. 6. Crops that are the same: hay, cattle, wheat, etc.; crops that are different: fruit, mink, dairy, onions, etc.; the differences in crops can be explained by the availability of water and other climatic/environmental considerations. 7. The Wasatch Front; the Wasatch Front; Utah has a limited area that is good for farming, if that space is taken up by housing, we will have to get our food from other states or even other countries (other answers may be acceptable). Activity Procedures Activity 1: Where does my food come from? 1. Give each student a copy of the Where in the United States did my food come from activity sheet to complete. 2. Discuss the regional patterns and the following questions: What determines which crops are grown where? (water availability, climate, elevation, soil type; consider sharing a map of US soil types to illustrate the connection between crops and soils) Who determines what farmers grow? (consumers who influence demand, other farmers who influence supply, government officials who set quotas and subsidies, and farmers themselves who have preferences and traditions) Can you identify where the corn belt and wheat belt are located? Activity 2: Utah Grown 1. Record students favorite fruits and vegetables on the board. Ask students to identify which of the fruits and vegetables on the list are grown in Utah by placing a star next to them. 2. Share some of the background information with your students. Discuss the types of crops that are grown in Utah and why. List some of the climatic conditions that limit the types of crops that can be grown (availability of water, summer heat/winter cold, length of growing season, etc.). For example, students may have listed bananas in step 1. Bananas require tropical temperatures and much more water than is available in Utah. Conversely, peaches are a fruit that do very well in some parts of Utah. 3. Give each student a copy of the Utah Agriculture Activity Map to complete. 4. Display the Utah Agricultural Products Questions. Feel free to make up additional questions of your own. Ask students to discuss the answers as a group. 5. Conclude this activity by emphasizing the importance of preserving farmland in communities. Use the Rooftop Farming activity sheet to underscore this point. See if your class can come up with an interesting and informative caption for the graphic. For example, Who decides where farmers farm? or Watch your next right turn! Utah Agriculture in the Classroom 2 utah.agclassroom.org

3 Where in the United States did my food come from? Where did your lunch come from? Some of the foods you eat every day are produced locally. Most states produce a variety of agricultural products. The legend below lists nine common agricultural products and the states that produce the most of each. Color the boxes next to each agricultural product in the legend, using nine different colors. Then, in each state listed next to the agricultural product, color a small, matching circle. Do you notice any regional patterns? Legend Vegetables: California, Florida, Washington, Idaho, & Arizona Fruits, Tree Nuts & Berries: California, Washington, Florida, Oregon, & Georgia Milk: California, Wisconsin, New York, Idaho, & Pennsylvania Legend continued Wheat: Kansas, North Dakota, Montana, Oklahoma, & Texas Beef: Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado, & Oklahoma Corn (for grain): Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota, & Indiana Soybeans: Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Indiana, & Nebraska Pork: Iowa, North Carolina, Minnesota, Illinois, & Indiana Poultry and Eggs: North Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, Alabama, & Mississippi

4 Utah Agricultural Products Questions 1. What geographic feature is found where the largest variety of crops are grown? What makes these areas well suited for agriculture? 2. Why do you think hay is produced in most counties in Utah? 3. Why do you think there are more beef cows than dairy cows in Utah? 4. Find the general area of your school on the map. Is your school in a rural or urban area? Do you see examples of agriculture on your way to and from school? 5. Identify the major crops in your county. Do you have any personal experience with those crops? 6. Compare and contrast the crops that are grown in the northern part of the state to the crops that are grown in the southern part of the state. What accounts for these differences? 7. Where is the greatest diversity of crops grown? Where do most people in Utah live? What kinds of problems occur when people like to live in the same areas that are good for farming?

5 Create a caption: Rooftop Farming

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