Changes & Challenges (1840s-1880s): Era of Self-Sufficiency
6 - 8
Students will be introduced to Utah's agricultural limitations and develop perspective and appreciation of early Utah settlers who struggled for self-sufficiency.
- Changes & Challenges: Utah Agriculture multimedia program
- What Made the Mormon Landscape Unique article, 1 copy per student
- Era of Self-Sufficiency, Screen 1 Questions activity sheet (optional)
- Utah Vegetation and Precipitation Maps for handout or projection
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
- Utah Vegetation and Precipitation Maps
- What Made the Mormon Landscape Unique Article
- Era of Self-Sufficiency, Screen 1 Questions Activity Sheet
- self-sufficiency: being able to provide for one's own needs without outside aid
Background Agricultural Connections
Screen 1, Agriculture Before 1890, Narrative
Utah is not the best state for agriculture; good land and water are both scarce. Nevertheless, hundreds of small farming villages were founded throughout Utah after the arrival of the Mormon pioneers in 1847. Families in these villages farmed on small plots of land near their communities.
The land was dry and had to be irrigated for raising animals and crops. Farmers brought water to their land by digging ditches and canals with hand tools and horsepower. During the first decades of Utah settlement, each family and village worked to become self-sufficient, striving to grow and raise everything they needed to take care of themselves.
But as Utah approached statehood and the twentieth century, there were changes ahead. What happened to Utah agriculture after statehood? What impact would these changes have on the people of Utah? What effect would the changes in Utah's agriculture have on our rural communities, our economy, our land and water use, and our values. Consider these questions as you study Changes and Challenges: A Century of Utah Agriculture.
The Importance of Self-Sufficiency
Farmers during Utah's period of self-sufficiency farming raised wheat for bread, cattle for meat, and sheep for meat and wool. They also grew hay, barley, corn and oats to feed their animals. Families kept chickens for meat and eggs, and dairy cows for milk. In the warm climate of southern Utah farmers experimented with growing sugar cane for sugar and molasses, grapes for wine, and cotton for cloth. Utah women even tried raising silkworms to produce silk for making fine dresses.
Changes & Challenges Unit
This lesson is one in a series of lessons designed to accompany the Utah Studies course taught throughout Utah. The unit explores the settlement of Utah, the self-sufficient nature of the state's people, and the future of Utah agriculture and agricultural land. The Changes & Challenges multimedia teaching tool accompanies the following lessons:
- Changes & Challenges (1840s-1880s): Era of Self-Sufficiency
- Changes & Challenges (1890s): Utah Becomes a State
- Changes & Challenges (1900s): Boom Time for Agriculture
- Changes & Challenges (1910s): The Boom Continues
- Changes & Challenges (1920s-1930s): Agricultural Hard Times and The Great Depression
- Changes & Challenges (1940s): World War II and Revival
- Changes & Challenges (1950s): Mechanization and Science
- Changes & Challenges (1960s-1970s): Expansion and Prosperity, Big Farms, Big Government
- Changes & Challenges (1980s): Recession, Expansion, and Utah Wheat
- Changes & Challenges (1990s): Products of Utah Travel Worldwide
- Changes & Challenges (2000s): Recession and Expansion
Interest Approach – Engagement
- View the Introduction section of the Changes & Challenges multimedia program, which describes agriculture in Utah before 1890, with your students.
- Watch the video clip about the history of irrigation in Emery County. Discuss the question asked with the video, "What role did irrigation play in the survival of the early pioneers. What role does it play today?"
- Open the picture link to see the photograph of Widsoe, Utah. Discuss the question asked with the photo, "What can you learn... about the people who chose to farm the land surrounding these isolated Utah villages?"
Source: National Archives and Records Administration
- Ask students to read the article What Made the Mormon Landscape Unique?
- Working in groups, ask each group to answer one or all of the questions below. Alternatively, you may choose to use the Era of Self-Sufficiency, Screen 1 Questions activity sheet.
- Why might the people of Utah have worked so hard to become self-sufficient in the years before statehood?
- Why were they different?
- What made Mormon villages in Utah different from other American settlements?
- How have communities that began as Mormon villages in Utah changed over the years?
- What things, if any, have not changed?
- Review the Utah Vegetation and Annual Precipitation Maps. Ask students to answer the questions below by interpreting what they see on the maps. Alternatively, you may choose to use the Era of Self-Sufficiency, Screen 1 Questions activity sheet.
- Why doesn't Utah have more good land for growing crops? (geography)
- Where are the major water resources in the state? (national forest land, this protects our watersheds)
- What other challenges did Utah's geography pose for farmers? (climate, the lack of precipitation)
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:
- The climate and availability of natural resources determined what kinds of crops and livestock could successfully be raised by the first Mormon pioneers who settled in Utah.
- Farming allowed early Utah settlers to achieve self-sufficiency.
- We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!
- Use the publication Working with Nature to further explore irrigation and the Utah watershed with your students.
Suggested Companion Resources
- Changes and Challenges (Activity): The Cox and Gossner Family Histories (Activity)
- Amazing Grazing (Book)
- Lazy B: Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest (Book)
- Changes & Challenges: Utah Agriculture (Multimedia)
- Frontier House (Multimedia)
- Agricultural News (Website)
Utah Agriculture in the Classroom
- Investigate the past and present role of agriculture in Utah. Meeting one or more of the following indicators:
- Identify the importance of farming and ranching to Utah's economy.
- Explain the impact the Great Depression on farmers and agriculture.
- investigate how agriculture has diversified and improved over time.
- Examine the cultural legacy of agriculture in Utah.
- Investigate the relationship between physical geography and Utah's settlement, land use, and economy. Meeting one or more of the following indicators:
- Read and interpret a variety of maps.
- Identify the physical features and regions of Utah.
- Compare and contrast the relationship between physical features and regions to settlement, land use, and the economy.
- Assess how natural resources sustain and enhance people's lives. Meeting one or more of the following indicators:
- Recognize the impact of water, minerals, wildlife, and forests on people.
- Distinguish between renewable and non-renewable resources.
- Analyze how natural resources improve the quality of life.
- Assess the importance of protecting and preserving natural resources.
- Examine how people affect the geography of Utah. Meeting one or more of the following indicators:
- Identify Utah's counties and cities.
- Assess how people change the landscape.
- Examine how altered landscapes affect people.
- Describe the significance of pioneers in Utah history. Meeting the following indicator:
- Explore the pattern of Mormon settlement throughout the West. Recognize how the Mormon pioneers' heritage influences Utah today.