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Utah Agriculture in the Classroom

Utah Studies

Counties and Commodities

Grade Level(s)

3 - 5


Using the Utah Agriculture Activity Map, 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 Needed

Interest Approach — Engagement
Activity 1: Taste Utah
Activity 2: Utah's Sweet 16
Activity 3: My County's Commodities
  • Blank piece of paper, 1 per student
  • Utah Agriculture Activity Map
  • Various art supplies (scissors, colored pencils, markers, etc.)
  • Stickers, magazines, printed photos for brochure activity (optional)

Vocabulary Words

  • 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 Agricultural Activity Map to each student.
  2. Ask students to look at the map and share what they notice about the state of Utah. (Shape of Utah, the different counties, where they live, etc.) Ask the following questions to lead a class discussion:
    • Which county do we live in?
    • Where on this map is our county located?
    • What other counties have you visited?
  3. Continue the class discussion about the state of Utah and have students share facts 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. Ask students to outline and color the county they live in.
  5. Tell students they are going to learn more about Utah and the top commodities our state produces.
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 or on the Taste Utah YouTube channel.
  2. Pass out a set of Taste Utah Profile Cards page to each student. (There are four Utah-shaped profiles per page. If you plan to "tour" or watch more than four videos, pass out more profile cards to students.)
  3. Select videos to watch from the list provided below, the Taste Utah website, or the Taste Utah YouTube channel. (You can assign students specific videos, let students choose their own, or watch the same tours as an entire class.) Most tours are about 3-5 minutes long.
    • Slide Ridge Honey, Cache County
      • Mendon, Utah
      • Founded in 2004
      • Local, fresh honey in Northern Utah
    • Ballard Hog Farm, Cache County
      • Smithfield, Utah
      • Four generations old
      • Pork products (sausage, bacon, ham) are sold in Utah
    • Central Milling, Cache County (Video is located at the top of the webpage; if needed, use the spacebar to pause and play.)
      • Logan, Utah
      • Has been running for over 150 years
      • Produces quality flour for baking
    • Maddox Ranch House, Box Elder County (Video is located at the top of the webpage; if needed, use the spacebar to pause and play.)
      • Perry, Utah
      • Has been around for 64+ years
      • Maddox supports local farmers by using local products
    • Bateman Dairy Farm, Utah County (Video is located at the top of the webpage; if needed, use the spacebar to pause and play.)
      • Elberta, Utah
      • Has been around for three generations
      • Largest dairy in Utah; supplies fresh milk
    • Stone Ground Bakery, Salt Lake County
      • Salt Lake City, Utah
      • Has been around since 1979
      • Supplies many Utah restaurants with fresh products, personally knows their customers, uses wheat from Brigham City
    • Beehive Cheese Company, Weber County
      • Uintah, Utah
      • Founded in 2005
      • Supports local farmers; milk comes from a local dairy
    • Houwelings Tomatoes, Juab County (Video is located at the top of the webpage; if needed, use the spacebar to pause and play.)
      • Mona, Utah
      • 1985 was when the first Houwelings tomato greenhouse was built
      • Grows tomatoes year round
    • Rowleys Red Barn, Utah County (Video is located at the top of the webpage; if needed, use the spacebar to pause and play.)
      • Santaquin, Utah
      • Established in 1984
      • Fresh, local fruits are grown and produced
    • Mountain Valley Mushrooms, Millard County
      • Fillmore, Utah
      • Established in 2003
      • Supplies many Utah restaurants with fresh mushrooms
    • Redmond Real Salt, Sevier County (Video is located at the top of the webpage; if needed, use the spacebar to pause and play.)
      • Redmond, Utah (Processing plant is in Heber City)
      • Has been around for four generations
      • Many food processors use Real salt for its nutritional value and taste
  4. Ask students to answer each of the questions on Utah-shaped profile 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. 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?
    • How does geography and climate affect some of these businesses or companies?
    • Is the product or commodity we learned about in (specific county) listed or shown on that county? (e.g., if the class watched Slide Ridge Honey, is honey listed on the map in Cache County?) If not, ask students why that might be. (Could be a specialty product that's not common in that county.)
  6. Pass out a Taste Utah Badges to each student per tour. (e.g., if you watched four tours, then pass out four Utah-shaped badges to each student.)
  7. Instruct students to color each badge and glue the badge to each county you "visited" while watching various tours. Students may also attach each Taste Utah Profile Card to the side of their map, if desired.
  8. Ask students to review each of the counties the class "visited" while watching the tours.
    • How far is this county from our home county?
    • What is similar and what is different about our home county and each of the counties visited?
Activity 2: Utah's Sweet 16
  1. Each student will need their Utah Agricultural Activity Map. Students may use the "Major Agricultural Product Legend" at the bottom of their map as clues.
  2. Display slide 1 of What am I? Utah's Sweet 16 interactive slide deck on the board. (This slide deck will play automatically with music. Click the slide to stop and start.) This activity can be done a variety of ways:
    • Option 1: Display the slide deck on the board and have the entire class guess the answers to each clue as you read through each slide. Students may use their maps for help.
    • Option 2: Print out the photo answers to each clue and place in different areas of the classroom. Read the clues one by one, and after each clue, allow students to move around the classroom and stand by the photo that they think is the correct answer.
  3. As you reveal the answers to each commodity, take time to discuss each of the commodities as a class. Consider asking students the following questions to lead discussions:
    • Which counties produce this commodity?
    • Is this product grown in our home county?
    • What county is the top producer of this commodity?
    • Why is this product beneficial to us?
    • Do you see any trends/patterns that might affect where certain crops or livestock are raised? (e.g., ask students to consider climate, terrain, urban sprawl, etc.)
  4. 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?
  5. On students' Utah Agriculture Activity Map, instruct students to draw a star on each of the top-producing counties for the sweet 16 commodities listed in the legend. (e.g., put a star on Millard County because it is the top-producing county for alfalfa hay and honey.)
    • Students should realize that five counties are the top-producing counties for 16 products. Ask students why they think that is.
  6. Allow students to color the rest of their maps if time permits.
Activity 3: My County's Commodities (Optional)
  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 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.
  • Have students complete the MyPlate activity on the back of the activity map. Instruct students to create a meal (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) using ONLY Utah-grown products.
  • Allow students to search the Changes and Challenges Interactive Timeline. Ask students to consider the history of Utah agriculture and how it compares to their current Utah Agriculture Activity Map. (e.g., Why does Utah no longer produce sugar beets? When did sheep begin to thrive in Utah?)

Suggested Companion Resources