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Utah Agriculture in the Classroom

Utah Studies

Changes & Challenges (2000s): Recession and Expansion

Grade Level(s)

6 - 8


Students will observe agricultural trends that set the stage for the new millennium and will connect their new knowledge of history to their present lives and projections for the future.

Estimated Time

45 minutes

Materials Needed

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

Vocabulary Words

  • Utah's Own: An organization that develops ties between Utah producers and consumers, supporting the local economy
  • organic: being, involving, or producing food grown or made without the use of artificial chemicals

Background Agricultural Connections

Screen 13, Agriculture in the 2000s, Narrative

Following Utah's entry into the new millennium, the number of Utahns living in rural areas continued to drop to just 11 percent. Although the number of farms increased to more than 16,000, the size of those farms decreased to an average 669 acres. This meant that 11.1 million acres, or 21 percent of Utah's total land, was farmland. While cattle and milk remained the state's most important livestock products, hogs, mink pelts, and eggs were also important. Hay, used for feeding dairy cows, continued to be Utah's most important crop. With the urban population growth, the sales of greenhouse and nursery products, like trees, shrubs, and flowers increased significantly. As Utah moved into the 21st century, people concerned about the loss of farmland began organizing efforts to preserve what was left. Concerns about food safety, the long-term effects of pesticides, and questions related to genetically modified foods, led to a growing demand for sustainable agriculture, organic foods, and locally grown products. To help stimulate the economy and stem rising food costs caused by high transportation expenses, the state of Utah introduced a large marketing campaign to promote "Utah's Own." The campaign encouraged Utahns to purchase food produced in Utah and in their own communities. Increasing economic uncertainty gave rise to countless farmer's markets and new companies selling bulk foods for emergency food storage.

Will the new millennium lead to a large-scale movement by Utahns to return to the self-sufficiency of their pioneer heritage, or will we continue to become ever more connected to the global marketplace? Will we work harder to protect Utah farmland and support those who raise and grow our food or will we buy more of our food from foreign countries? What changes and challenges lie ahead for the next century of Utah agriculture?

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 and Challenges Interactive Timeline accompanies the following lessons:

Interest Approach – Engagement

  1. On the Changes and Challenges Interactive Timeline, allow your students to listen to the narrative on the tile captioned, "Agriculture in the 2000s."
  2. Discuss the associated questions:
    • Will Utahns return to the self-sufficiency of their pioneer heritage, or will we continue to become ever more connected to the global marketplace?
    • Will we work harder to protect Utah farmland and support those who raise and grow our food, or will we buy more of our food from foreign countries?
    • What changes and challenges lie ahead for the next century of Utah agriculture?


  1. On the Changes and Challenges Interactive Timeline,  click on the tile titled, "Federal Lands and State Lands."
  2. Project the Federal Lands Map on the board.
  3. As a class, read about federal lands in Utah and discuss reasons why there is so much federal land and so little private land in Utah.
  4. Consider asking the following questions to lead a class discussion:
    • How does public (federal) land use benefit Utahns? (Everyone can access public lands to participate in recreational activities like hiking, camping, and fishing. With permits from the government, ranchers also have access to public lands for grazing livestock.)
    • What are the consequences of public lands use?
    • How can people who share different views and opinions effectively access and use public lands?
  5. Open the web link "Farmland Preservation" and visit the American Farmland Trust website to learn about the history and mission of the organization.
  6. Discuss with students whether or not it is necessary to preserve farmland.
  7. Ask students to consider housing development in Utah. Oftentimes, houses and subdivisions are built on previously owned farmlands. What effect does this have on the future of Utah?
  8. Project the Utah Agriculture Activity Map on the board.
  9. What products are produced on Utah's farmland? (Crops, cattle, sheep, fruits, vegetables)
  10. Are any agricultural products produced on federal lands in Utah? (Yes, with special grazing permits from the Federal Government, Utah ranchers can graze beef cattle and sheep on federally owned lands.)
  11. Ask students to consider locally produced food in Utah.
    • Do any students have a favorite food that is produced locally? (fruits, vegetables, meat, jams, ice cream, treats, etc.)
    • What are the pros and cons of buying locally? (Buying locally produced food helps support the local economy, but local food choices may be limited due to things like geography, climate, and availability.)
  12. Open the Utah's Own webpage and show students various farms and businesses locally owned in Utah. Either provide time in class with computer access for students to complete the Utah's Own Webquest or provide students with the link ( so they can complete it at home.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation

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

  • Agriculture plays an important role in the Utah economy.
  • The economic choices people make, such as buying locally produced food, have both present and future consequences.
  • Agriculture and housing often compete for the same land, and both types of land use have environmental, social, and economic effects. 

Use the PowerPoint Reviewing a Century of Utah Agriculture to review the information covered in the entire Changes & Challenges unit.

Suggested Companion Resources


Debra Spielmaker

Organization Affiliation

Utah Agriculture in the Classroom

State Standards for Utah
Grade 7: Social Studies Standard 4
Students will understand the diverse ways people make a living in Utah.
Objective 2
  • Investigate the past and present role of agriculture in Utah. Meeting one or more of the following indicators:
    1. Identify the importance of farming and ranching to Utah's economy.
    2. Explain the impact the Great Depression on farmers and agriculture.
    3. investigate how agriculture has diversified and improved over time.
    4. Examine the cultural legacy of agriculture in Utah.
Grade 7: Social Studies Standard 1
Students will understand the interaction between Utah's geography and its inhabitants.
Objective 1
  • Investigate the relationship between physical geography and Utah's settlement, land use, and economy. Meeting one or more of the following indicators:
    1. Read and interpret a variety of maps.
    2. Identify the physical features and regions of Utah.
    3. Compare and contrast the relationship between physical features and regions to settlement, land use, and the economy.
Objective 3
  • Assess how natural resources sustain and enhance people's lives. Meeting one or more of the following indicators:
    1. Recognize the impact of water, minerals, wildlife, and forests on people.
    2. Distinguish between renewable and non-renewable resources.
    3. Analyze how natural resources improve the quality of life.
    4. Assess the importance of protecting and preserving natural resources.
Objective 4
  • Examine how people affect the geography of Utah. Meeting one or more of the following indicators:
    1. Identify Utah's counties and cities.
    2. Assess how people change the landscape.
    3. Examine how altered landscapes affect people.