The top 8 crops grown in Utah are hay, grains and oilseeds like barley, wheat, and corn, nursery products like ornamental plants and shrubs, cherries, dry onions, pumpkins, sweet corn, and safflower.
Hay is by far Utah’s largest crop in terms of acreage and production value. Nearly half of Utah’s harvested cropland is used for hay production.
The main type of hay grown is alfalfa, along with some grass hays. Hay is primarily produced to feed the state’s large dairy and beef cattle industries.
Utah ranks 9th nationally in milk production and 14th in cattle production. Having a robust hay crop supports these major livestock sectors.
In 2020, Utah produced over 2.4 million tons of hay valued at $347 million. The primary hay growing regions are found along the Wasatch Front and in central and southern Utah.
Hay provides nutrients and roughage that is essential for cattle health and productivity.
The ample hay supplies in the state help make Utah’s dairy and cattle operations more efficient and cost-effective.
2. Grains and Oilseeds
Aside from hay, the other major category of crops grown in Utah is grains and oilseeds. This includes barley, wheat, and corn.
Barley is the most significant, with around 26 million bushels produced annually on over 100,000 harvested acres. The annual production value of barley is approximately $3.6 million.
Most of the barley crop is used locally as feed for dairy cattle and other livestock. Wheat production totals around 3.5 million bushels per year, valued at $2.3 million.
Again, most wheat stays in state for animal feed usage. Corn for grain production is smaller scale at 650,000 bushels annually, worth about $1 million.
Other minor grain and oilseed crops include oats and safflower. While the acreage and production value are relatively small, having an in-state supply of feed grains and supplements is important for Utah’s livestock industry.
It reduces reliance on importing these livestock feeds from out of state.
3. Nursery Products
While not a traditional food crop, nursery product production is a significant agricultural sector in Utah.
This includes growing ornamental plants, trees, shrubs, and flowers for landscaping purposes. Utah’s climate allows nursery products to be grown year-round.
Major production areas are found near Salt Lake City and Provo. In 2020, Utah had over 1,100 nursery growers with total sales of $135 million.
Labor-intensive greenhouse and nursery crops provide important agricultural jobs and income.
These high-value ornamental plants are sold at nurseries, garden stores, landscape companies, and big box retailers around the state.
As Utah’s population continues expanding, demand for locally grown landscaping plants and supplies will likely increase.
Utah may be best known for its juicy, tart Montmorency cherries. The state ranks 2nd in the nation for tart cherry production, behind only Michigan.
Most of Utah’s commercial cherry orchards are located in Weber, Utah, Davis and Box Elder counties. Cherry harvest occurs in mid-summer and production averages around 8 million pounds annually.
The annual value of Utah’s tart cherry crop is over $8.5 million. Tart cherries are extremely versatile, being used in pies, juices, dried fruit, jams, and other products.
Utah’s dry, warm climate along the Wasatch Front provides excellent conditions for cherries to thrive. Tart cherries also have nutritional benefits as they are high in antioxidants.
The distinctive, sour Utah cherries end up in consumer products, farmer’s markets, and fruit stands across the state.
5. Dry Onions
Onions are a high value vegetable crop well-suited to Utah’s arid climate.
The state’s dry onions are grown both for fresh market sales and processing uses. The main onion varieties grown are yellow, white, and red onions.
Major production areas include Box Elder, Weber, Davis, Salt Lake, and Utah counties. In 2020, Utah had 1,616 acres of land dedicated to dry onion production.
The annual production is around 6-7 million pounds valued at $2.4 million.
Once harvested, onions are cured to enhance storage ability before being sold for consumer or commercial use. Onions add flavor and nutrients to many dishes.
They store well compared to other vegetables, allowing for year-round availability. Utah’s niche onion crop supplies local demand and provides important economic activity.
Utah’s fall pumpkin harvest signals the changing of the seasons. Pumpkins thrive during the hot, sunny summers along the Wasatch Front.
The state has nearly 1,500 acres dedicated to pumpkin production each year. Major growing areas include Box Elder, Cache, Utah, Salt Lake and Iron counties.
The annual production is around 18 million pounds of pumpkins valued at $1.6 million. Pumpkins are available at roadside stands, farmers markets and grocery stores every autumn.
They are integral to seasonal holidays and traditions. Utah pumpkins are used for jack-o-lanterns, pies, decoration, and roasted seeds.
Large “jack-o-lantern” varieties are common, but growers also produce smaller pie pumpkins. Beyond holiday uses, pumpkins provide nutrients like vitamin A, potassium and fiber.
Utah’s climate allows farmers to supply fresh, local pumpkins to satisfy autumnal demand.
7. Sweet Corn
Farm stands and stores are stocked with fresh, sweet corn during Utah’s warm months. Sweet corn is a popular vegetable crop grown across about 1,075 acres per year.
The main production areas are Cache, Box Elder, and Weber counties in Northern Utah. Annual production totals around 2.5 million pounds of sweet corn, valued at $1 million.
Sweet corn must be harvested and marketed immediately before sugars convert to starch. Farmers often sell it at local markets and u-pick operations.
Utah sweet corn is available from mid-summer through early fall. Ears are picked when the kernels are plump, milky and sweet.
Besides eating it on the cob, sweet corn also shows up in salsa, salads and chowder. Sweet corn provides fiber, vitamins and antioxidants.
Utah’s sweet corn season supplies appetizing fresh produce at the peak of ripeness and flavor.
Safflower is an oilseed crop that grows well in Utah’s dry climate. It is produced on about 15,000 acres annually, primarily in Box Elder, Cache and Weber counties.
Safflower is valued for its heart-healthy oil. The seeds contain 30-40% oil that is pressed and used for cooking or salad dressings.
Annual safflower production yields about 6 million pounds of seed worth $1.6 million. While acreage is relatively small, safflower provides crop diversification and rotation benefits in Utah.
It requires little irrigation which makes it suitable for drier parts of the state. Most of Utah’s safflower crop is pressed into oil out of state.
But having some commercial oilseed production contributes to Utah’s agricultural economy and supplies vegetable oil demand.