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Utahns Want to Preserve, Protect Farms, Poll Says

Judy Fahys/KUER
Mary Ellen Domeier visits the Chavez Farms stand at the Murray Farmers Market. The popularity of markets like these reflect the importance of local food for Utahns, as a poll by Envision Utah shows.

A poll by Envision Utah suggests Utahns want to be more self-sufficient when it comes to food and preserving farming.

Those ideas resonate with Mary Ellen Domeier. She’s got a garden of her own, but she's visiting the Murray Farmer’s Market. Her arms are weighed down with grocery bags filled with apples and pears and sweet corn, and she’s showing off the produce she’s just bought plus what’s already in her car.

“Cantaloupe from the Green River area -- I can smell it. I mean, smell that -- you’ve got to support these guys. Plus, we benefit because we get to taste all of this wonderful food.” 

Around 98 percent of the 50,000 people who responded to the Your Utah, Your Future survey say they’d like more food grown in state. And, as Utah’s population doubles in the next few decades, they want to stop the trend of seeing buildings sprout up where furrows and orchards used to be.

“When Utahns weighed in on agriculture, I think they were saying we would like to grow more food that we can eat here,” says Ari Bruening, COO of Envision Utah, the organization that conducted the survey. “So maybe that’s shifting some crops in some places.  Maybe that’s adding more cropland. And maybe that’s protecting some of our best cropland that we have.”

People responding to the survey don’t want water taken from agriculture or land.

But Urial Chavez says his family farm is already coping with shrinking options. The Chavez family doesn’t grow on just one farm but several lots scattered around Utah County. He says these farmers’ market customers aren’t here to buy fruits and vegetables because they’re cheap.

“That’s because they want to help the farmers,” he says. “They want to help farmers stay on the farm. And they can get fresh produce too.”

The survey also found that Utahns are willing to water their lawns less to ensure there’s enough water for farms.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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