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Utah farmers are grateful for the snow but anxious to get to the business of spring

One of the fields, plowed and ready, at Harward Farms in Springville, Utah, March 27, 2023.
Curtis Booker
/
KUER
One of the fields, plowed and ready, at Harward Farms in Springville, Utah, March 27, 2023.

Mother Nature has been generous with all the moisture this year in Utah.

While a record-setting snowpack is great for the state's reservoirs, the conditions are having an adverse impact on farmers. The snow and cold temperatures are making it hard to plant crops.

Harward Farms in Springville hasn't begun planting corn and other vegetables yet, but owner Jake Harward said they are behind on spring grain and alfalfa.

"We did start some tomatoes and peppers last week in the greenhouse and then we usually throw those out in the middle of May to transplant. So as far as that goes, we still got some time but definitely need a little drier weather to build up.”

Harward is grateful for all the snow because it's needed for the reservoirs, but drier weather would help get fertilizer on his crops. At the moment, they’re “kind of in a holding pattern.”

"Yeah, some warm weather would be nice for sure. It's hard to complain about moisture, but I think a little sunshine for a day or two would probably feel pretty good too."

Harward Farms in Springville, Utah, after an early Monday morning storm, March 27, 2023.
Curtis Booker
/
KUER
Harward Farms in Springville, Utah, after an early Monday morning storm, March 27, 2023.

The Utah Farm Bureau said farmers and ranchers across the state are dealing with similar and different challenges. Vice President of Communications Matt Hargreaves heard from someone in the sheep industry who said “many are worried right now because of all the snow.”

“Many will graze sheep on public land allotments from the Bureau of Land Management,” he said. “They graze for a certain number of days, and have a deadline date of when they have to be off. Often, they will graze in areas on the west desert in Utah, and then come spring time, will move to mountain areas or other lots."

Utah Department of Agriculture and Food Public Information Officer Bailee Woolstenhulme said another concern is the potential for severe flooding.

"So tractors are great to utilize in the snow, but once it gets muddy, and the fields get really muddy and they're wet and saturated, it does make it extremely hard to get tractors and equipment onto those farms."

And Utah isn't out of the woods just yet.

The National Weather Service of Salt Lake City said they are tracking at least two more storms that could bring rain and snow in the mountains across Northern, Central and Southern Utah into the first week of April.

Meteorologist Sam Webber said indications from the Climate Prediction Center show more snow and cold temperatures in their eight- to 14-day outlook.

"An active weather pattern that would favor bringing colder temperatures into the region. But trends are going to favor below below average precipitation. So drier systems, but cold as well ... We go through these things, these periods of unpredictability. But that's the way things are leaning right now, is this kind of, for the next one to two weeks, colder and wetter. And then as we head more into late April, we're looking at potentially drier but still cold."

Even with hay supplies at a 50-year-low nationwide, Harward said they still have a good supply of hay that they've been able to sell.

"And luckily we've had a pretty good supply of hay from last year. So we got to a retail spot here at the farm and [there were] definitely a lot of people coming in and getting hay and kind of not really complaining, just saying, ‘hey, you know, I need more hay because my pasture hasn't greened up.’"

Curtis Booker is KUER’s growth, wealth and poverty reporter in Central Utah.
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