See more from this Session: Symposium--Local/Regional Food Systems and Community Food Security: Making the Connection
Monday, November 1, 2010: 2:55 PM
Long Beach Convention Center, Room 102A, First Floor
Traditional agriculture in Utah and the Intermountain West faces serious challenges. The region is characterized by a semi-arid (cold desert) climate, calcareous soils, and a short growing season with hot dry summers and cold winters. The vast majority of Utah’s population is concentrated in a narrow corridor in the North Central portion of the state, historically a prime location for high quality fruit and vegetable production. Rising cost of inputs coupled with rapid urbanization, have made it increasingly difficult for Utah to compete on the global commodity market. While a small tree-fruit industry still survives, Utah’s vegetable industry has largely disappeared. These very challenges, however, also present considerable opportunity in the form of increased local and value added marketing potential. Utah has a strong tradition of small-scale family farming and backyard food production. A rising interest in urban agriculture, use of season extension techniques such as high tunnels, and a growing interest on the part of growers in organic production methods and alternative marketing strategies provide a unique opportunity for Utahans to develop a local food system providing high quality fruits and vegetables to the largely urban population. Several new research programs have recently been initiated at Utah State University including organic fruit and vegetable production, season extension, and legume-based beef finishing systems. These research programs are being coupled with the development of new extension, county agent and student training initiatives. Enabling Utah growers to stay in business through expanding and revitalizing local food systems would increase local food security while preserving a farming way of life in the region and provide economic incentives for managed urban growth and farmland preservation.