WEATHER

Prolonged winter delays Utah farmers’ planting season

Mar 24, 2023, 10:35 PM | Updated: 10:41 pm

CACHE COUNTY, Utah — Prayers have definitely been answered.

“We love it, we love it,” said ValJay Rigby.

However, you can’t blame Rigby if he starts praying for something else.

“Yeah, we got a little snow,” he said with a laugh.

A “little snow” might be the understatement of the year. His farm in Newton, in Cache County, is still buried in lots of snow.

Last March, and in previous Marches, he was already planting crops.

“We had already planted some barley last year. We had tractors hooked onto implements the end of February, so we were ready to go,” Rigby said. “We won’t be this year.”

Not a chance. One of those farming implements is his air seeder. It is nowhere near ready to be used.

“It is still buried in snow drifts,” Rigby said. “I had planned to work on it this winter and do some maintenance, but it has been in snow drifts so long, it’s hard to get it out.”

The prolonged winter means that the barley, spring wheat, grain corn, and other crops Rigby Ranch is known for producing will be delayed this year. Even if the snow starts melting this weekend, Rigby said it will still be at least three weeks before they can start planting.

The Utah Farm Bureau said farmers across the state are facing similar challenges, such as wheat farmers in San Juan County, onion farmers in Box Elder County, and even the fruit blossoms are delayed because of this prolonged winter.

Rigby explained that planting after April 1 results in a yield reduction because the crops don’t get out of the ground and far enough along before it gets too hot in June.

Farmers have used ash or a dark fertilizer in the past to melt snow so they can get into the ground. However, the storms this year have been constant.

“You need a week of sunny, bright sunshine to melt on top of there, and if you put it on and it snows over the top like it’s doing today, then you’ve wasted your money,” Rigby said. “We just have to wait.”

Rigby Ranch in Newton, Utah, buried in snow on March 24, 2023. (Mark Less/KSL TV) Rigby Ranch in Newton, Utah, buried in snow on March 24, 2023. (Mark Less/KSL TV) Rigby Ranch in Newton, Utah, buried in snow on March 24, 2023. (Mark Less/KSL TV) Rigby Ranch in Newton, Utah, buried in snow on March 24, 2023. (Mark Less/KSL TV) Rigby Ranch in Newton, Utah, buried in snow on March 24, 2023. (Mark Less/KSL TV) Rigby Ranch in Newton, Utah, buried in snow on March 24, 2023. (Mark Less/KSL TV) Rigby Ranch in Newton, Utah, buried in snow on March 24, 2023. (Mark Less/KSL TV) Rigby Ranch in Newton, Utah, buried in snow on March 24, 2023. (Mark Less/KSL TV) Rigby Ranch in Newton, Utah, buried in snow on March 24, 2023. (Mark Less/KSL TV) Rigby Ranch in Newton, Utah, buried in snow on March 24, 2023. (Mark Less/KSL TV) Rigby Ranch in Newton, Utah, buried in snow on March 24, 2023. (Mark Less/KSL TV)

Even with all of the challenges this year, Rigby knows we need the water and would rather have too much than too little or, even worse, none. That’s something he prays will never happen.

“We love the snow. We smile every day it snows still,” he said with a smile. “It will help get moisture back into the soil and water in our reservoirs. We need it.”

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Prolonged winter delays Utah farmers’ planting season