Utah Department of Agriculture and Food

The Utah State Fair is a great place for people to make the connection between farm and food

By Doug Perry

Sometimes the space between food produced and food consumed seem vast and disconnected – almost like foreign countries. And yet the heart and soul of our nation has always been found across the vast open lands of our farms and ranches. Urbanites find great comfort in that.

But Utah’s harvest season, prominently celebrated at the Utah State Fair in Salt Lake City, is where the two paths cross. Where the producer and consumer become better acquainted and reminded of each other’s value. And where we all share in the successes of another blessed year of agriculture and food.

Since 1856 the Utah State Fair and its country cousins, the county fairs, serves as an important and much-anticipated highlight of farmer and rancher accomplishments. It’s an annual conference for agri-producing peers, sharing in best practices, networking, and experiencing a common bond and passion.

But others in Utah delight in the fair, too. Historically, it’s served as a premier state and community social event, marked by carnival rides, a rodeo and entertainment, and of course food. But there’s also friendly competition between farmers, homemakers, and artists that leave us all marveling at the skills and techniques our Utah family, friends, and neighbors have mastered.

The Utah State Fair seems to be growing and getting better each year. Governor Herbert’s leadership and a generous donation by the LDS Church led to a new 10,000-seat arena that has expanded capacities and the types of shows that can be accommodated.

 

Here’s just a sampling of what this year’s fair offered:

  • Utah Department of Natural Resource (DNR) featured its annual fishing pond - this year stocked with catfish and plenty of volunteers on hand to assist children with their catch and release. “We get lots of interest from kids, the banks are very crowded by 5 or 6 pm,” said one DNR volunteer.
  • Next door was another hands-on experience called Barnyard Friends. Here, small children delight in a sow and her eight piglets lying close together and near the fence so they can be touched as they nap the afternoon away, oblivious to the loads of attention they garner. The exhibit also included calves, goats, sheep, and various chicks at all stages – unhatched eggs incubating to only days old.
  • The competition barns were bustling with activity throughout the week, where hundreds of FFA, H4, and other kids competed in livestock showmanship and quality events. “The judges are looking for sheep that are well-fed and muscular so I give them lots of hay and grain throughout the year,” said Sarah Shaw, of Sevier County. “But they also need to see that my sheep have connected and are comfortable being handled by me so I do lots of things to prepare them for that also.”

 

  • Dairy West and Meadow Gold probably got the award for most unusual display this year, sculpting three near-life-size cows doing jazzer-size out of butter. Following the theme “Dairy Doing a Body Good,” sculptors Debbie Brown and Matt McNaughtan. For Debbie this was actually her 21st butter sculpture. "We come up with a winning design and then (we'll) kind of sketch out some ideas of how we can make it work for our cooler," she said.

 

  • Moving right along, most families with small children don’t miss the Little Hands on the Farm exhibit, an award-winning favorite of children, ages 2 to 10 where they begin to understand the connection from farm to grocery. Hands on the Farm is sponsored by Utah’s Own and gives kids the chance to gather eggs, pick apples, visit a grain silo, pluck vegetables from the garden, and more.

 

  • For the last 40 years, the Cattleman Association and Utah Beef Council have sponsored “Utah Beef Feast,” and come-and-get-it-while-it-lasts lunch barbecue that draws fair-goers in almost entirely on smell alone. “We’ve been come here for a long time. We have lots who know we’re here and relieved to eat anything other than a corn dog,” jokes Daniel Crozier, Cattlemen’s second vice president.

 

  • And, finally, what fair would be complete without the myriad of competitions for top crops - corn, squash, carrots, tomatoes - you name it and there’s probably someone awarded first prize for it. But, homemakers are also battle it out with their amazing offering of canned fruit and pickled goods, along with a wide assortment of baked goods such as cookies, cinnamon rolls, bread, and pies of every sort.

 

The 2018 Utah State Fair was, and has always been, a great celebration of agriculture and farming. The connections and bonds created are an important part of our state’s culture, both past and present.



Due to our climate and the seasonal nature of fruits and vegetables, the average Utahn might be hard pressed to spend one full week much of the year eating mostly or 100 percent locally grown or produced food. But mid-September? If ever there is a time to try a local only diet for a few days, it is this week. September 8-15 is designated nationally as Eat Local Week. In Utah, as in much of the country this is peak harvest time, a perfect time to give it a try.

Where to Buy Local Foods?

You can start at the grocery store by looking for the Utah's Own Logo on everything from cheese to salsa to chips and sauces. Go to the Utah's Own website for a list of companies and brands. While you are at the grocery store, check the dairy case and meat counter for local products. You can find local milk, cheese, and meat in some stores. Some stores also try to carry as much local produce this time of year as possible. If it's local it should say.

But for a lot of people the real joy of shopping for local food comes from other venues. Roadside stands and on-farm stands and stores are great places to get local produce and other local foods. And then, of course, there are farmers markets. The Utah's Own website has a list of farmers markets and farm stores. Check it out and get to a market this week. Many of the market booths are even staffed by the main farmer or a contributing member of the farm family. Talk about knowing where your food comes from.

What to Buy?

Finally, we get to talk about the food choices. The following list is not comprehensive, but it is a start. I'm going to stick to the seasonal produce that is in season now, but know that most of the year you should be able to find local beef, pork and poultry, local cheese and other dairy, local honey and so many wonderful Utah's Own packaged/processed foods.

Okay, on to the seasonal produce list:

  • Apples
  • Arugula
  • Basil
  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Broccoli Raab
  • Cabbage
  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrots
  • Chard
  • Cilantro
  • Collard greens
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Fennel
  • Garlic
  • Grapes
  • Green onions
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Melons
  • Mint
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions 
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Peppers
  • Pumpkins
  • radishes
  • Raspberries
  • Radishes
  • Rosemary
  • Shallots
  • Spinach
  • Squash (summer and winter)
  • Thyme
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelons

Though it may not be everything that can be eaten, there are a lot of choices this time of year. Go out and discover local food for yourself this week.

 

 

Gossner Foods StorefrontIn the village of Waldkirch, Switzerland there’s a Gossner family farmhouse with an engraving on the backside that sums up Gossner Foods better than anything else, says Dolores Gossner Wheeler, current razor-sharp CEO of the multi-generation family business headquartered in Cache County.

“You good faithful farmers, how are you valued by your country? If God does not bless and the farmer does not work, I ask, who has something to eat?”

While one eighth-generation descendent of the family still owns that property in Switzerland, another is making good on a legacy of amazing Swiss cheese-making that today is arguably the best in the United States. Their varieties are so good, many of the nation’s top brands will only buy and distribute Gossner Swiss products

“They come to us,” says Dolores, “They say ‘you make the best Swiss and we want to sell only the best.’” And thus numerous successful partnerships with distributors across the country have been selling Gossner cheese for a long time.

But that’s not the only thing the company excels at. A visit to their Logan store is an experience in the wonders and innovations of modern dairy products. Along with their famous Swiss, you will find curds, whipping cream, butter, spreads, and milks in many creative flavors — root beer float is a favorite. And, you can’t leave without one of their heavenly-flavored ice cream cones in hand.

Gathering milk from about 300 Utah and Idaho family dairies, give or take, Gossner still does business on a handshake and even pays more for milk than most buyers.

“We’ve sold our products on quality and service. Our customers depend on that level and because of it they stay loyal,” says Dolores.

But it’s the hard work of making Swiss cheese that they are most proud of and noted for. And it’s a story that begins in, where else? Switzerland.

You see Dolores’ father Edwin Gossner, Sr., born in 1909 in the eastern region of Egliswil-Waldkirch, Switzerland moved to Wisconsin in 1930 to work as an apprentice to his brother’s startup cheese factory. His brother, Ernest,  was a craftsman, trained at the Swiss Cheesemaking School of Switzerland, and passed that knowledge to Edwin.

But in 1937 their factory burned down so Edwin packed up his newly-acquired skills and headed West. He worked briefly for a cheese maker in California, but by 1941 was ready to launch into his own endeavor.

Edwin specifically chose Logan, Utah’s Cache Valley, as it closely resembled the climate and elevation of his Switzerland homeland, and because of the abundance of local dairies.

Though simplistic and practical, his instincts paid off immediately. Within five years he had built the largest Swiss cheese factory in the world, producing 120, 200-pound wheels of cheese each day

Ironically, as big and important to the cheese industry as Gossner is today, most people don’t know much about them - even in Utah

“Our Swiss is in every state in the Union but you won’t find it under the Gossner name,” says Dolores. In fact, their product is sold under more than 400 different brands. In spite of that, she would like the world to know more about the Gossner label. But she knows it will take some time and effort, similar to what they put into making Swiss cheese, which is notoriously much harder to make than cheddar.

“There’s a lot that can go wrong with Swiss cheese,” says Dolores with a serious tone. “I call it ‘the naughty puppy’ because it requires a lengthier process - we have to hold it for at least 60 days whereas cheddar gets moved within a few days.

“You can’t do a mediocre job on Swiss cheese. But, I figure we do the hardest things in the dairy industry because we have the best people to do it,” she adds proudly.

Cheese experts and loyal customers know that the Gossner work ethic etched on that farmhouse in Switzerland is more than a clever saying. But Cache County residents also see it etched on the family’s hearts and have benefitted from Gossner generosity, too.

Sadly, cancer has been particularly hard on the family, taking the lives of several prominent members over the years, including Dolores husband. So, along with the endless contributions they make to homeless shelters, food banks, and for disaster relief, this family recently handed a $2 million check to Logan Regional Hospital — the organization’s largest donation ever — to build a 9,000-square-foot extension to its cancer center.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to share our family’s legacy in such a meaningful way within a community that has been so good to us,” stated Dolores in a press release announcing the contribution.

Clearly, Dolores and Gossner Foods have a special connection to their Logan community, and Utah in general. The nexus of excellent family milk producers and quality manufactured products play a role in that, but Dolores also has another take on it.

“Utah has a reputation for being conservative and boring. But I like boring. Boring tastes good,” she laughs.

Perhaps another great saying to etch on the back of their house.



September 4, 2018

Please see the excerpts below from a USDA news release with information on how qualified farmers hurt by recent trade tariffs can apply for mitigation funds:

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today launched the trade mitigation package aimed at assisting farmers suffering from damage due to recent tariffs placed on select agricultural products by multiple foreign nations.  Producers of certain commodities can now sign up for the Market Facilitation Program (MFP), while USDA will also begin to purchase identified commodities under a food purchase and distribution program.  Additionally, USDA has begun accepting proposals for the Agricultural Trade Promotion Program (ATP), which will help American farmers find and access new markets for their products.  In total, USDA will authorize up to $12 billion in programs, consistent with World Trade Organization obligations. 

Perdue announced in July that USDA would act to aid farmers in response to trade damage from unjustified retaliation.  President Trump directed Secretary Perdue to craft a short-term relief strategy to protect agricultural producers while the Administration works on free, fair, and reciprocal trade deals to open more markets in the long run to help American farmers compete globally.  These programs will assist agricultural producers to meet some of the costs of disrupted markets.

USDA provided details in August of the programs to be employed:

  • USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will administer the Market Facilitation Program (MFP) to provide payments to corn, cotton, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybean, and wheat producers. An announcement about further payments will be made in the coming months, if warranted. 
     
  • USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will administer a food purchase and distribution program to purchase up to $1.2 billion in commodities unfairly targeted by unjustified retaliation. USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) will distribute these commodities through nutrition assistance programs, such as The Emergency Food Assistance Program and child nutrition programs.
     
  • Through the Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) Agricultural Trade Promotion Program (ATP), $200 million will be made available to develop foreign markets for U.S. agricultural products. The program will help U.S. agricultural exporters identify and access new markets and help mitigate the adverse effects of other countries’ restrictions.

Note: USDA is currently working to determine how to address market disruptions for producers of almonds and sweet cherries. 

Market Facilitation Program

The sign-up period for MFP is now open and runs through January 15, 2019, with information and instructions provided at www.farmers.gov/mfp.  The MFP provides payments to cotton, corn, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybean, and wheat producers who have been significantly impacted by actions of foreign governments resulting in the loss of traditional exports.  The MFP is established under the statutory authority of the Commodity Credit Corporation CCC Charter Act and is under the administration of USDA’s FSA. Eligible producers should apply after harvest is complete, as payments will only be issued once production is reported. 

A payment will be issued on 50 percent of the producer’s total production, multiplied by the MFP rate for a specific commodity.  A second payment period, if warranted, will be determined by the USDA.

Market Facilitation Program

 

 

Commodity

 

Initial Payment Rate

Est. Initial Payment**

(in $1,000s)

Cotton

$0.06 / lb.

$276,900

Corn

$0.01 / bu.

$96,000

Dairy (milk)

$0.12 / cwt.

$127,400

Pork (hogs)

$8.00 / head

$290,300

Soybeans

$1.65 / bu.

$3,629,700

Sorghum

$0.86 / bu.

$156,800

Wheat

$0.14 / bu.

$119,200

Total

 

$4,696,300

** Initial payment rate on 50% of production

MFP payments are limited to a combined $125,000 for corn, cotton, sorghum, soybeans, and wheat capped per person or legal entity.  MFP payments are also limited to a combined $125,000 for dairy and hog producers. Applicants must also have an average adjusted gross income for tax years 2014, 2015, and 2016 of less than $900,000. Applicants must also comply with the provisions of the Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation regulations.

For more further information or to locate and contact local FSA offices, interested producers can visit www.farmers.gov.

Food Purchase and Distribution Program

Beginning this week, USDA’s AMS will issue pre-solicitation notices through GovDelivery for targeted commodities.  These notices will outline products USDA intends to purchase and will continue over the next several weeks. AMS will purchase products over four quarters in the new Federal fiscal year, which starts on October 1, 2018.  The materials purchased may be adjusted between quarters to accommodate changes due to growing conditions, product availability, market conditions, trade negotiation status, and program capacity, among other factors.

To expedite first quarter purchases, AMS will focus on products currently purchased for nutrition assistance programs given the existence of qualified USDA suppliers and specifications for these products. Examples include various forms and varieties of apples, pork, beef, dairy, blueberries, grapefruit, oranges, pears, cranberries, plums/prunes, walnuts, potatoes, rice, kidney and navy beans.  By purchasing known commodities first, AMS can procure commodities that have been sourced in the past with maximum speed and impact.

Food Purchases

Commodity

 Target Amount (in $1,000s)

Apples

$93,400

Apricots

$200

Beef

$14,800

Blueberries

$1,700

Cranberries

$32,800

Dairy

$84,900

Figs

$15

Grapefruit

$700

Grapes

$48,200

Hazelnuts

$2,100

Kidney Beans

$14,200

Lemons/Limes

$3,400

Lentils

$1,800

Macadamia

$7,700

Navy Beans

$18,000

Oranges (Fresh)

$55,600

Orange Juice

$24,000

Peanut Butter

$12,300

Pears

$1,400

Peas

$11,800

Pecans

$16,000

Pistachios

$85,200

Plums/Prunes

$18,700

Pork

$558,800

Potatoes

$44,500

Rice

$48,100

Strawberries

$1,500

Sweet Corn

$2,400

Walnuts

$34,600

Total

$1,238,800

Agricultural Trade Promotion Program

Applicants may now submit proposals for the FAS $200 million ATP Program.  FAS will accept applications on a rolling basis until November 2, 2018. Details regarding ATP and how to apply are available at https://www.fas.usda.gov/programs/agricultural-trade-promotion-program.  

The aim of the program is to assist American agricultural exporters in identifying and accessing new markets and to help mitigate the adverse effects of other countries’ restrictions.  ATP is meant to help all sectors of U.S. agriculture, including fish and forest product producers, mainly through partnerships with non-profit national and regional organizations. 

 

July 25, 2018--Recently UDAF inspectors spent two days preparing for implementation of the produce safety rule of the Food safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

This training, one of many UDAF inspectors have taken and will take as FSMA implementation ramps up, revolved around on-farm readiness reviews.

“An On Farm Readiness Review is an educational opportunity intended to walk producers through what an actual inspection on their farm may look like, before a real inspection is conducted,” said David Basinger, UDAF State Organic Program manager and FSMA on-farm readiness review coordinator.

“This review will allow you to walk through your operation, step-by-step, and see what you’re doing right, what you need to improve and problem-solve with trained professionals about how to inexpensively change if necessary to meet the new food safety requirements. This is a confidential service, so what happens on the farm stays on the farm. Best of all, it is no cost to growers.”

During the training, inspectors went through the several topic areas that will be covered in the readiness review as well as later in actual inspections. Those topic areas include:

  • Worker health, hygiene and safety;
  • Wildlife and domestic animals exclusion from produce growing areas;
  • Manure handling and application;
  • Water testing and safety
  • Pre and post-harvest sanitation
  • Post-harvest produce handling

Produce growers who will be covered by the Produce Safety Rule of FSMA are required to take a grower training course offered by the Produce Safety Alliance. This training will cover much of the same subject matter inspectors learn in on farm readiness review training. While having UDAF out to your farm for a readiness review is optional, it can be an important step for farms as they prepare for required periodic inspections.  If you are interested in attending an upcoming Produce Grower Training, please contact Jay Schvaneveldt.  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 801-538-7149.

The FSMA Produce Safety Rule primarily targets medium size and larger produce farms.  Many small and very small farms will be exempted from the regulations or fall into a category called qualified exempt. UDAF is currently working on a website that will allow farmers to determine whether they are covered by the rule, exempt or qualified exempt.  The UDAF website exemption tool will be user friendly and simple. In the meantime, FDA has a publication you can use to better understand who is covered and who is exempt. https://www.fda.gov/downloads/food/guidanceregulation/ucm345226.pdf

As part of the readiness review training, UDAF inspectors got to conduct a couple of mock readiness review visits. UDAF’s Jack Wilbur volunteered to let the class come onto one of his family’s farm properties and practice the review. In a future blog post, Wilbur will provide his insight and opinions about the new legislation and the on farm readiness review.