Utah Studies

Utah in a Box: Counties and Commodities

Grade Level(s)

3 - 5

Estimated Time

Three 50-minute lessons, plus research time for activity 3

Purpose

Students will explore Utah counties where major agricultural products are grown and raised, describe the development of industry and business in Utah as it relates to its physical geography, and identify examples of producers and consumers in the local community.

Materials

Interest Approach — Engagement

  • Utah Box*, 1 per student
  • Utah Agriculture Activity Map (optional)

Activity 1: Taste Utah

  • Utah Box*, 1 per student
  • Taste Utah cards, 1 set per student
  • Taste Utah videos
  • Taste Utah website
  • Plastic sandwich bag, 1 per student
  • Various art supplies (scissors, colored pencils, markers, etc.)

Activity 2: Utah’s Sweet 16

  • Utah Box*, 1 per student
  • Utah's Sweet 16 matching cards, 1 set per student
  • Utah Agricultural Activity Map, 1 per student
  • Various art supplies (scissors, colored pencils, markers, etc.)
  • Plastic sandwich bag labeled, 1 per student

Activity 3: My County’s Commodities

  • Utah Box*, 1 per student
  • Blank piece of paper, 1 per student
  • Utah Agriculture Activity Map
  • Various art supplies (scissors, colored pencils, markers, etc.)

*If not using the Utah Boxes from Utah AITC (provided in workshops), students may bring a small, flat box to class (such as a white apparel box). 11 1/8 x 8 3/4 x 2" letterhead boxes can be found online as well. Print the blank Utah Counties Map and glue to the top of the box.

Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)

Vocabulary

  • agriculture: the science or practice of farming, including cultivating the soil for the growing of crops and raising livestock for food
  • cash receipt: the record when a cash payment has been allocated for the sale of a product
  • commodity: a primary agricultural product that can be bought and sold
  • consumer: a person who purchases goods and services for personal use.
  • county: a political and administrative division of a state, providing certain local government services
  • dryland farming: a method of farming in semiarid areas without the aid of irrigation, using drought-resistant crops, and conserving moisture.
  • producer: a person or company that makes, grows, or supplies goods or services.
  • supply and demand: the amount of a commodity, product, or service available, and the desire of buyers for it, considered as factors regulating its price.

Did you know? (Ag Facts)

  • Utah is ranked 2nd in the nation for tart cherry production and 3rd in the nation for apricot production.1
  • There are approximately 18,100 farms in Utah.1
  • Seventy-eight percent of Utah's farm cash receipts ($1.53 billion) comes from the combined total of all livestock and livestock products including sheep, wool, cattle, milk, eggs, hogs, and other products.1
  • The average size of farms in Utah is 608 acres.1

Background Agricultural Connections

Utah is home to 11 million acres of farmland suited for growing various commodities. Alfalfa hay, beef cattle, dairy cows, sheep, barley, and various fruits are among the top commodities produced in Utah. Each county in Utah is able to produce specific products based on different factors such as climate and moisture. Because of Utah's geographic diversity, annual rainfall varies greatly. Each year, Utah receives approximately 12 inches of rain, making Utah the second driest state.1 Drought-resistant crops and dryland farming methods help Utah farmers with crop production. Cold, winter months also affect Utah farmers, and early frosts can ruin young crops at the beginning of growing season. In Utah, the growing season ranges from 60 days in northern Utah to 190 days in southern Utah.1 Various types of soil across Utah also impact agriculture in each county. Orchards in Utah thrive along the Wasatch bench where ancient Lake Bonneville left behind well-aerated, fertile soil.1

Ranchers in Utah are affected by climate and moisture, as well as what kind of land they will graze livestock on. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Utah's land is federally owned.1 Approximately 22 million acres in Utah belong to the Bureau of Land Management. This means that Utah ranchers rely heavily on grazing permits which allow them to graze livestock on federally owned land.

Many agricultural businesses and restaurants in Utah rely on locally grown commodities produced by Utah farmers and ranchers. Typically, successful businesses are located close to high-producing farms and counties. Well-known dairy processing plants like Gossner Foods and Schreiber Foods are located in Cache County where many dairy farms can be found. Utah County is known for producing peaches, apples, and tart cherries; it is here you will find well-known fruit companies like Rowley's Red Barn and McMullin Orchards. Various fruit stands and businesses can also be found along "Fruit Way" in Box Elder County.

Just like any product found at the store, supply and demand also applies to agricultural commodities. Droughts, diseases, early frosts, or harsh winters can all negatively affect crops and livestock. When the production of a certain commodity is low or struggling, the demand increases which then forces the price to increase. Depending on the situation, supply and demand can either benefit producers and consumers or negatively affect them. If alfalfa hay is in high demand, hay farmers benefit from high prices. However, if milk prices are low, dairy farmers' income is limited and high-priced hay can be difficult to purchase. In 2015, Utah produced 1.98 billion in cash receipts for crops, livestock, and produce. Agriculture is an important industry that contributes to Utah's economy each year.

Interest Approach – Engagement

  1. Pass out a Utah Box to each student.
  2. Ask students to look at the map on the box and share what they notice about the state of Utah. (Shape of Utah, the different counties, where they live, etc.)
  3. Lead a class discussion about the state of Utah and have students share what they may already know about Utah. Consider sharing some of the following facts:
    • The state capital is Salt Lake City.
    • Utah's nickname is the "Beehive State."
    • Utah is the 11th largest state (in square miles) in the U.S.
    • January 4, 1896 is Utah's statehood day, which makes it the 45th state.
    • The state bird is the Seagull.
    • The state flower is the Sego Lily.
  4. Instruct students to label each of the counties on their box. If students don't know the counties yet, help by projecting the Utah Agriculture Activity Map on the board.
  5. Ask students to highlight and color the county they live in.
  6. Tell students they are going to learn more about Utah and the top commodities our state produces.

Procedures

Activity 1: Taste Utah

  1. Take your students on a virtual tour of Utah. The videos listed below provide quick behind-the-scenes footage of farms and agricultural companies all around Utah. These videos, and more, can be found on tasteut.com or on the Taste Utah YouTube channel.
  2. Pass out a set of Taste Utah cards to each student. The number of cards each student receives depends on how many video tours you choose to watch.
  3. Select videos to watch from the list provided below. Each tour is about three minutes long. You may have your students watch every tour; however, it is not required. Consider selecting tours that are located in or near your county or choose companies that are unfamiliar to your students.
  4. Ask students to answer each of the questions on the Taste Utah card as they watch the tour. (Most videos answer each of the questions. The answers are also provided above.)
    • What product does this farm or company produce?
    • Where is this company/farm located?
    • How long has this farm or company been operating? (Students will learn that many companies have been passed down from generation to generation.)
    • Why is this product important to the people of Utah? Instruct students to illustrate their own picture for each commodity in the blank box on the card. This illustration should be something they saw from the video tour.
  5. Instruct students to draw a picture for each commodity in the blank box on the card. The illustration should be inspired from the video tour.
  6. Discuss the questions and answers from the cards with the students. Lead a class discussion about producers and consumers in a community. Use the following questions to guide the discussion:
    • All of the videos we watched show producers in Utah. What products are being produced in Utah?
    • Who are the consumers?
    • Can a producer (one of the businesses/farms) be a consumer as well? How?
  7. Provide each student with a plastic sandwich bag, and have them label it "Taste Utah."
  8. Instruct students to place their Taste Utah commodity cards inside the bag and then inside the box.
  9. Ask students to review each of the counties the class "visited" while watching the tours. Have students pick one color (a different color from what was used to color their own county), and highlight each of the counties addressed in the videos on their Utah Box map.

Activity 2: Utah's Sweet 16

  1. Pass out a set of Utah'"'s Sweet 16 matching cards to each student.
  2. Ask students to cut out each of the cards.
  3. Instruct students to match each photo with the correct description.
  4. Once students have matched all of the cards, discuss each of the commodities as a class. Provide each student with a Utah Agriculture Activity Map to be used as a reference.
  5. Ask students the following questions as you discuss Utah's top 16 agricultural commodities:
    • Which counties produce this commodity?
    • What county is the top producer of this commodity?
    • Why is this product beneficial to us?
    • Do you see any trends/patterns concerning where certain crops or livestock are raised?
  6. Discuss key economic topics with your students, including allocation of goods, supply and demand, and role of prices.
    • What would happen to the price of peaches if an early frost destroyed farmers' crops in early spring?
    • How are commodities transferred across the state?
    • How do farmers determine what to grow and raise? 
  7. Provide each student with a plastic sandwich bag, and have them label it "Utah's Sweet 16."
  8. Instruct students to place their matching cards inside the bag and then inside the Utah Box.
  9. Ask students to pick a color (different from the highlighted Taste Utah counties) and highlight the counties associated with Utah's Sweet 16 products on the Utah Box map. Because a lot of the same counties need to be highlighted, students can draw lines or dots to differentiate. Have students add a legend to the bottom of their map.

Activity 3: My County's Commodities

  1. Assign each student a Utah county to research. Students can research the same county in which they live, or they can each be assigned a different county.
  2. Pass out a blank sheet of paper to each student. Have students fold the paper in thirds to create a brochure.
  3. Explain to students that they will create a brochure that advertises their county and spotlights each of the agricultural commodities grown in that county. Students can color and illustrate a brochure by hand, cut out pictures from magazines, or design a virtual brochure that can be printed.
  4. Ask students to include the following general county information:
    • County name
    • County seat
    • County size (square miles)
    • Population
    • Any other interesting facts
  5. Ask students to also answer the following questions in their brochures:
    • What are the major commodities grown in your county?
    • Description of each commodity. What is it? What is it used for?
    • How does each commodity personally affect you? (Students might find it helpful to create a "commodity chain" to see a relation. Hay might not directly affect them, but it is used to feed livestock which then give us meat or milk.)
  6. Lead a class discussion using the following questions:
    • Are there any big farms or agricultural businesses in your county that promote commodity sales? (Gossner Foods in Cache County, Rowley's Red Barn in Utah County, Beehive Cheese Company in Weber County, etc.)
    • Why are some commodities grown in certain areas? (Location, climate, soil type)
    • What would happen if a specific commodity was no longer grown in your county? (Farmers would be affected financially; lack of fresh, local produce; supply and demand; etc.)
    • Do the commodities in your county rely on each other? (Hay grown for livestock, fruit and crops for honey production, etc.)
    • What commodities grown in your county might you find in the local grocery store? (Eggs, fruit, milk, beef, honey, etc.)
  7. Consider having students explore utahsown.org to learn about other farms and agricultural products in Utah.
  8. Have the students place their completed brochures into their Utah boxes.
  9. Lead a class discussion about the top-producing counties in Utah as well as the counties they visited in the Taste Utah videos. Consider asking the following questions:
    • Which counties are top producers of various commodities?
    • Who are the consumers of commodities grown in Utah? 

Concept Elaboration and Evaluation

After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:

  • Utah produces a wide variety of agricultural products and commodities.
  • Geography determines the types of crops and livestock that can be grown in a specific area.
  • Many businesses in Utah rely on locally grown commodities produced by Utah farmers and ranchers.

Enriching Activities

Consider providing many of the products seen in the Taste Utah videos for students to taste themselves. Have students rank the products beginning with their favorite.

Suggested Companion Resources

Sources/Credits

Author(s)

Bekka Israelsen

Organization Affiliation

Utah Agriculture in the Classroom

Agricultural Literacy Outcomes

Culture, Society, Economy & Geography

  • Describe how supply and demand impact the price of agricultural goods (T5.3-5.a)
  • Discover that there are many jobs in agriculture (T5.3-5.b)
  • Explain the value of agriculture and how it is important in daily life. (T5.3-5.d)
  • Understand the agricultural history of an individual's specific community and/or state (T5.3-5.f)

Education Content Standards

Within ECONOMICS

Economics Standard 3: Allocation
    Objective
  • Evaluate different methods of allocating goods and services, by comparing the benefits to the costs of each methods.
Economics Standard 7: Markets and Prices
    Objective
  • Identify markets in which they have participated as a buyer and as a seller and describe how the interaction of al buyers and sellers influences prices. Also, predict how prices change when there is either a shortage or surplus of the product available.
Economics Standard 8: Role of Prices
    Objective
  • Predict how changes in factors such as consumers’ tastes or producers’ technology affect prices.

Within GEOGRAPHY

K-4 Geography Standard 14

How human actions modify the physical environment.

    Objective 2
  • People use technology to get what they need from the physical environment.
K-4 Geography Standard 1

How to use maps and other geographic representations, geospatial technologies, and spatial thinking to understand and communicate information.

    Objective 1
  • Properties and functions of geographic representations – such as maps, globes, graphs, diagrams, aerial and other photographs, remotely sensed images, and geographic visualizations.

Common Core Connections

Reading: Anchor Standards

    CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1
  • Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards

    CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2
  • Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

Language: Anchor Standards

    CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.2
  • Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

Writing: Anchor Standards

    CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.2
  • Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4
  • Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.