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Todd Curtis, KSL TV

'We're at the mercy of Mother Nature': Above-average rain impacting Utah farmers

By Alex Cabrero, KSL TV | Posted - May 26th, 2019 @ 12:36pm



LAYTON — For all its country-living appeal, no one ever said farming was easy. At least, no one who has ever tried it.

“Yeah, we love what we do. But it is tough,” said Tyson Roberts, who owns Roberts Family Farms in Layton.

Utah has been so dry the past few seasons, farmers across the state were hoping for water this year. However, all the snow and seemingly constant rain this season is proof there can be too much of a good thing.

“It’s either too much or too little water; but really, we’re at the mercy of Mother Nature, and that’s how agriculture is,” Roberts said.

Several different kinds of vegetables are grown at Roberts Family Farms. Normally at this time of year the sweet corn is about a foot high. But as of Saturday afternoon, the tallest crops may have been only 3-4 inches tall.

“It’s struggled being cold and wet. It’s hard to grow,” Roberts said. “It’ll probably produce a crop, but it’ll be a smaller cob — less desirable at a farmers market.”

That’s a challenge when you rely on farmers markets for your livelihood.

“We make our income out of about 14 weeks out of the whole year, so we rely on a consistent harvest throughout the fall; and if we can’t plant at the right times in the spring, then we’re not going to have a harvest throughout all the farmers markets,” Roberts said. “One bad week at a farmers market could mean the difference between making money and losing money that year.”

It’s not just crops that are affected. Farmers who raise animals, like cows and goats, are also feeling the impact of a wetter season because of the hay needed to feed those animals. It has been so wet this spring, farmers have had a difficult time cutting hay.

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“Our hay should’ve been cut a week ago. I walked out into our field today and it is just sopping wet from the top to the bottom,” said Ron Gibson, who owns a farm in Weber County.

Gibson is also the president of the Utah Farm Bureau and said that going from extremely dry last year to all the rain and snow this year has made it challenging for farmers to plan budgets and take out loans for equipment.

“We don’t know what the good or the bad are going to be. We’re always on an average when you talk to a banker, and things have been really tough in our industry over the last five years,” Gibson said.

Planting seeds has also been difficult this season. The rain has caused many fields to be full of mud.

“Basically, on my farm, I have until about the 10th of June to do everything,” said Gibson, talking about his corn and onion crops. “We’ve got very little of that done and I still have until the 10th of June. We’re compressed into this little box to get things done and that’s how a lot of farmers across the state feel.

“We’re grateful for the water because it’s our lifeblood. We’ve got to have it. But, it’s a real challenge to get through right now.”

It’s not too late to catch up this season; and as farmers have said often, there’s always hope for a better season next year.

“They’ll make it. They might have a really tough year, but most farmers can make it through tough years,” Roberts said. “We’re a resilient bunch.”

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