Expected Vegetable, Berry, Fruit, and Cut Flowers for Urban Farms in Utah

Authors: Sheriden Hansen, Dan Drost, Melanie Stock, Brent Black 

vegetable heading

Introduction:

Small-scale urban farming has become more common in recent years a result of rapidly increasing population growth and urban development throughout Utah. Overall, farmland acreage is declining in Utah leading to increased numbers of small urban parcels. The 2017 Agriculture Census conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), reported that from 2012 to 2017, Utah lost 16,792 acres of farmland. Despite this loss in acreage, Utah saw a gain in number of farms, many of which are small acreage operations. Thirty-four percent of the total farm operations in Utah have a total acreage between 1 to 9 acres (USDA, 2012; 2017) and 44% of those farmers have less than 5 years of experience. In addition, only 3% of fruit and 2% of vegetables needed to sustain the population are locally produced and small-scale urban agriculture plays a vital role in the local food system (Kurtz, J.E. et al., 2020).

In response to the increasing importance of small-scale urban farming, in 2021, legislation was passed for the state of Utah (House Bill 390) to establish the definition of urban farming as part of the modification of the Urban Farming Assessment Act. Part of this definition includes meeting expected yields (lbs./A) for Utah urban farmers. Utah State University Extension was asked to establish these expected (standard) yields. Utah has wide variations in climate and landscape that contribute to fluctuations in growing conditions making average or standard yield estimates difficult to establish. Climate variations include number of frost-free days (FFD) which can significantly influence crop timing and production. For example, Heber City, Utah averages 90 FFD as compared to Salt Lake City (164 FFD), Utah, which is located 45 miles to the north west and roughly 45 minutes away. This variation in FFD directly influences crop selection, planting dates, and the ability to produce high yielding crops without additional inputs such as high tunnels, greenhouses, or other season extension techniques. In addition to climate, yields can be impacted by soil and water quality, specific cultivar selection, farm management skill or experience, and many other variables. Growers are advised to keep good records to ensure reasonable yield expectations are met.

Vegetable Yields

Average vegetable yield estimates presented are specific to the Salt Lake Valley (Table 1). Yields in colder and warmer areas will vary from average yield estimates. Inexperienced growers, producers in marginal climates, and sites with unique challenges often do not achieve “average” yields. Yield estimates may be 25-50% less than expected and these are provided as guides for helping establish realistic production goals. Growers with more experience, now use more intensive production practices may produce significantly more than the “average” yield. The average yields and percentage increase or decrease reported (Table 1) are presented to help growers estimate productivity. These can be adapted to the specific climate and weather conditions, soil and water quality, cultivar selection, and skill level of the grower.

*Table 1 Yield estimates (lbs./A) for commonly grown vegetable crops in Utah. Average yields are estimates for the Salt Lake Valley and immediate surrounding area. Variables such as climate, soil and water quality, cultivar selection, and farm management skill should be considered when estimating yields for a specific location or operation. 

 

Yield Estimates (lbs./A)1

 

Minus

50%

Minus

 25%

Average

Plus

10%

Plus

20%

Qualifier

Notes

Asparagus

1250

1875

2500

2750

3000

Assumes mature plants

Beans, (bush, pole, dry)

7000

10500

14000

15400

16800

 

Beets

15000

22500

30000

33000

36000

 

Broccoli

6250

9375

12500

13750

15000

 

Brussels Sprouts

6250

9375

12500

13750

15000

 

Cabbage (head, Chinese, other)

12500

18750

25000

27500

30000

 

Carrots

12500

18750

25000

27500

30000

 

Cauliflower

7500

11250

15000

16500

18000

 

Chard

6250

9375

12500

13750

15000

 

Collards

7500

11250

15000

16500

18000

 

Corn* (sweet, pop)

6250

9375

12500*

13750*

15000*

 

Cucumbers (salad, pickling)

7500

11250

15000

16500

18000

 

Eggplant

8750

13125

17500

19250

21000

 

Endive

15000

22500

30000

33000

36000

 

Garlic

2000

3000

4000

4400

4800

 

Kale

7000

10500

14000

15400

16800

 

Leeks

8000

12000

16000

17600

19200

 

Lettuce (leaf, romaine, head)

8750

13125

17500

19250

21000

 

Melons (cantaloupe, honeydew, etc.)2

8000

12000

16000

17600

19200

Fruit size varies greatly

Onions, dry bulb

20000

30000

40000

44000

48000

 

Parsley

3750

5625

7500

8250

9000

 

Parsnips

10000

15000

20000

22000

24000

 

Peas (shelling, snap)

3000

4500

6000

6600

7200

 

Peppers

6000

9000

12000

13200

14400

Fruit size varies greatly

Potatoes (Irish types)

10000

15000

20000

22000

24000

 

Potato (sweet)

5000

7500

10000

11000

12000

 

Pumpkins2

15000

22500

30000

33000

36000

Fruit size varies greatly

Radishes

3000

4500

6000

6600

7200

 

Rutabaga

17500

26250

35000

38500

42000

 

Spinach

5000

7500

10000

11000

12000

 

Squash, Summer2

10000

15000

20000

22000

24000

Fruit size varies greatly

Squash, Winter2

15000

22500

30000

33000

36000

Fruit size varies greatly

Tomatoes (cherry, paste, salad, other types) 2

11250

16875

22500

24750

27000

Fruit size varies greatly

Turnip, Roots

8000

12000

16000

17600

19200

 

Watermelon

1250

1875

18000

19800

21600

Fruit size varies greatly

1Yields determined from averages compiled from various university sources and adapted to Utah climate and conditions (Grubinger, 2013; Marr, 1992; Rabin et al., 2012).

2For fruiting crops like melons, squash and tomato, fruits size can vary greatly and yield averages need to reflect these differences.

* Sweet corn yields commonly expressed as dozen ears/A.

Berry Yields

Average yield estimates presented for berries are specific to the Salt Lake Valley (Table 2). Berry yields are sensitive to cold injury to the overwintering cane, as well as late spring freezes, which can cause drastic reductions in annual yield. It is not uncommon for winter injury and late spring freezes to impact crop production with yield losses of 70 to 80%. Climate in Utah is widely variable and operations located in more harsh climates and locations with unique challenges, such as high pH soil or high elevation, will have lower yields than the average estimate. For example, in Rich County operations typically produce 35 to 50% of average yield estimates compared to the Wasatch Front due to a significantly shortened growing season and prolonged harsh winter temperatures. Yield estimates may be 50-65% less than expected and these are provided as guides for helping establish realistic production goals. The average yields and percentage increase or decrease reported (Table 2) are presented to help growers estimate productivity. Estimates can be adapted to the specific climate and weather conditions, soil and water quality, cultivar selection, and skill level of the grower.

*Table 2 Yield estimates (lbs./A) for commonly grown berry crops in Utah. Average yields are estimates for the Salt Lake Valley. Variables such as climate, soil and water quality, cultivar selection, and farm management skill should be considered when estimating yields for a specific location or operation. 

Yield Estimates (lbs/A)1
  Minus 50% Minus 25% Average Plus 10% Plus 20% Qualifier Notes
Blackberry 500 750 1000 1100 1200  
Raspberry2 1500 2250 1000 3300 3600  

1Yield estimates determined from reported annual averages from Utah commercial growers over multiple years and have been adjusted for small acreage.

2Yield estimates for both primocane and floricane cultivars.

Cut Flower Yields

Average yield estimates presented for commonly grown cut flower cultivars are specific to the Cache Valley and are based on data reported from field trials carried out in North Logan, Utah over multiple years (Table 3). Reported average yield is for marketable stems, meaning those that meet appropriate stem length requirements and are free from blemishes or deformity. Flowers that do not make grade have potential to be used in small bouquets and may still be profitable. Note that there is a broad selection of flower types and cultivars that can be grown and data are not yet available for all cut flower crops being grown in Utah.

Cut flower yields, like other crops previously discussed, will vary annually due to temperature fluctuations and growing conditions and individual operations may face unique challenges to their location. Farmers in colder locations can use season extension techniques, such as high tunnels, to improve yields. Acknowledging that most urban farm operations do not have space to produce in high tunnels, high tunnel yield data were excluded from the reported average estimates. Yield estimates may be 10-50% less than expected and these are provided as guides for helping establish realistic production goals. The average yields and percentage increase or decrease reported (Table 3) are presented to help growers estimate productivity. These can be adapted to the specific climate and weather conditions, soil and water quality, cultivar selection, and skill level of the grower.

Table 3. Yield estimates (Stems/A) for commonly grown cut flower crops in Utah. Average yields are estimates for Cache Valley. Variables such as climate, soil and water quality, cultivar selection, and farm management skill should be considered when estimating yields for a specific location or operation.

Yield Estimates (Stems/A)1
  Minus 50% Minus 25% Minus 10% Average Plus 10% Plus 20% Qualifier Notes
Dahlia 4000 6000 7200 8000 89000 9700 Early frost can result in zero yield
Lisianthus 43500 65300 78400 87100 95800 104500  
Peony 56600 85000 105000 113300 124600 136000 Assumes mature plants
Ranunculus 87100 130600 156800 174200 191600 209000  
Snapdragon2 87100 130600 156800 174200 191600 209000 Assumes spring + fall harvest
Stock 21700 32600 39200 42500 47900 52200  
Zinnia 54400 81600 98000 108900 119700 130600  

1Yields are reported marketable stems, not total stems. Marketable stems represent only quality blooms with no damage, and are of the appropriate length for the cultivar.

2Yield is based on one-year of data

References


How Much Feed and Forage You Need for Livestock

forage heading

Introduction

In Utah, livestock are usually grazed from May through October and fed hay from November through April. By stockpiling pasture grasses (leaving a part of the pasture ungrazed from mid August to mid October), the grazing season can often be extended into December.
Grazing is measured in Animal Unit Months (AUM). One AUM is the amount of forage consumed by a 1000-pound animal in one month.

How much hay and forage your animals need: 

  Hay (Tons/Month) Grazing (Animal Units/Month)
1 Horse .5 1.25
1 Cow .4 1.2
I Sheep .1 .2
1 Llama .15 .3
1 Goat .1 .2

The average forage production of pasture in one year:

  Fertile Soils
Hay (tons/acre)       Forage (AUMs/acre)
Poor Soil
Hay (tons/acre)         Forage (AUMs/acre)
Irrigated                              4-6               6-10                        2-4                      3-6
     

Forage and hay requirements to get your maxium production potential:
The following examples operation consits of three acres of fertile irrigated land. One acre is used for hay production and two acres to grazing. Livestock consits of two horses. The pasture has a six month growing season.

Hay Requirement
2 Horses x .5 tons/month x 6 months = 6 tons hay
Forage Requirement
2 horses x 1.25 AUMs/month x 6months = 15 AUMs
Hay Production
1 acre (fertile irrigated soil) x 5 ton/acre = 5 tons hay
 

In this example, two acres would produce enough forage to feed two horses for 6 months. However, there would not be enough forage (grazing) to meet your animals’ needs during the winter. Some hay would need to be purchased. To avoid overgrazing your pasture, you can do some of the following:
- Buy additional feed or rent pasture
- Increase pasture production
- Improve grazing management
- Reduce number of animals

How many head of livestock per acre:

 

Fertile Soils

Grazing

Poor Soils

Grazing

Livestock Species

Irrigated

Irrigated

Number of cattle

5 to 8

2 to 3

Number of sheep

30 to 50

10 to 20

Number of goats

30 to 50

10 to 20

Number of llamas

20 to 33

10 to 20

Number of horses

4 to 8

2 to 3

Number of pigs

About 12

About 6

Sources

For more information on forage needs, visit Small Pasture Management Guide 

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