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New Utah Ag Commissioner Aims To Bridge Divide Between Farmers And Consumers

Recently appointed Commissioner of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, Kerry Gibson (right), touring a hay facility in June.
Utah Department of Agriculture and Food
Recently appointed Commissioner of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, Kerry Gibson (right), touring a hay facility in June.

Utah’s new agriculture commissioner is seeking to raise awareness of the importance of farming and ranching for the state’s health and economy. 

“I think that’s one of the common misconceptions: that somehow agriculture is a dying industry," said Department of Agriculture and Food Commissioner Kerry Gibson. "That somehow it really doesn’t matter to the overall economy of things, but it’s a huge part of the economic base of the state.”

Gibson is right: agriculture accounts for 80,000 jobs and $3.5 billion of Utah’s economy.

Gibson said one of his major goals is making sure Utahns understand just how crucial a role farmers and ranchers play in their day-to-day lives.

“Food production is not one of those things that any of us can do without," Gibson said. "One way or another, we absolutely have to make our food production systems work and make them successful in our community. There is the option – I think it’s a terrible one – of just banking on the fact that someone is going to do it for us, another state or another country. But we don’t believe that in Utah.”

Gibson’s Weber County dairy farm has been in his family for six generations. He said that a few years ago, he started opening the farm for visits from kids from the city.

“That’s been a really interesting situation to see these kids who live fairly close to the farm but yet have never really experienced it," he said. "To be able to walk through a corn field, walk through the dairy farm, watch the milk be produced, put their hands on baby calves. Just really get connected to the farm in a way they haven’t been connected before.”

Gibson said those connections will help raise awareness of why Utahns should support their local farmers.

“When you have a local farmer in a community," Gibson said, "there are impacts you can’t put a finger to. Keeping your tax base local. Supporting your neighbors. It just gives those consumers something special to hold onto that says, hey: we are in this together.”