When the first Mormon pioneers arrived at the site of Salt Lake City in 1847, they began work on an irrigation system that would enable them to produce enough crops to survive the following winter. This pattern of self-sufficient agriculture dominated the economy until the beginning of the 20th century. At that time mining, particularly of copper, increased in scale, and with the construction of larger irrigation projects, more commercial crops were raised. After World War II (1939-1945), when several defense industries were established, manufacturing grew rapidly in importance. Today, Utah has one of the most diversified economies of the Mountain states.
From the beginning Utah’s settlers raised a variety of crops and livestock. They transported agricultural surpluses to mining camps and small towns in neighboring territories and states. Utah’s arid climate provided too little rainfall for crops to mature, and irrigation became a dominant characteristic of Utah agriculture early on. Farmland in Utah is chiefly concentrated in the area west of the Wasatch Front, where soils are fertile and streams and rivers from the mountains provide water for irrigation. Much of the Utah rangeland is used for livestock grazing, which has helped make beef and dairy production very important.
The chief crops raised in Utah are hay, wheat, and barley. Hay, including alfalfa, is fed to livestock on the farms where it is grown.
Hay is also an important cash crop. Wheat is grown mainly in the northern and northeastern sections of the state on land that is not irrigated. The irrigated farmland in Utah is used mainly to grow a wide variety of vegetables and fruits, especially onions, potatoes, apples, cherries, peaches, dry beans, pears, and apricots. Sales of greenhouse and nursery products are another leading source of farm income in Utah.
In spite of the arid climate, much of Utah’s land can be used for pasture and range, and cattle are raised throughout much of the state. The sale of beef cattle and calves and dairying are the chief sources of Utah’s agricultural income. Dairying is especially important in the area around Salt Lake City. Poultry farming is a major farm activity in the areas of northern and central Utah just west of the Wasatch Front, and eggs are an important livestock product in the state. Sheep are raised both for meat and wool in many areas. Mink ranching is also important, especially in the north, and Utah ranks among the leading producers of mink pelts in the United States. "Utah" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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