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It’s harvest time and Utah’s agriculture commissioner wants you to buy local to help your neighbors

Posted at 3:35 PM, Sep 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-13 22:32:30-04

WEBER COUNTY, Utah -- At the home of Utah Agriculture Commissioner Kerry Gibson, everyone gets drafted to help cook.

Gibson's wife, Katrina, was making salsa with locally grown tomatoes, jalapenos, bell peppers and peaches. On the stove, corn grown by a neighbor and purchased at Ogden's farmers market was boiling. Gibson has tried to use only Utah-grown ingredients (the only exception being a bit of lime juice for the salsa recipe).

"The fresh food? It has a better taste to me," she said.

Outside, Commissioner Gibson is grilling locally-produced brats. Besides his position overseeing Utah's Department of Agriculture and Food, the family is trying to emphasize buying local to help their fellow farmers.

"When we shop locally and purchase a local food product, we find the economy circulates several times throughout the system and it just helps these local communities," Commissioner Gibson said.

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food estimates that 2% of vegetables that residents consume are grown by local farmers. It's about 4% for fruit trees; 20% for grains; and 25% of dairy. Animal proteins account for more than 100% because the state exports more than it imports.

Commissioner Gibson said it's not difficult to find local produce. You also get to come face-to-face with the person who makes it.

"When you buy a local product like at a farmers market, you're helping someone within your community," he said.

Utah farmers have been facing some tough times lately, which is why the state has made more of an emphasis of "Utah's Own," a campaign to urge residents to buy local and support local business.

"They do worry about tariffs. They do worry about pricing. They do worry about the weather," he said. "Especially right now it seems there is more on their plate than ever. But farmers are strong, they are resilient."

Katrina Gibson said many people often don't think of where their food comes from -- they just buy it in a store.

"I think they're removed from it and don't see the work that goes into it and what it takes to produce an onion, a potato," she said.

The state estimates that if Utahns made a conscious effort to spend 10% more at local businesses, the local economy would get a $1.3 billion boost. Right now, it's the peak time for produce.

"As much as a farmer cares about the community, we know consumers care about their community as well," Commissioner Gibson said.