Matt Goble reflects on farming and educating

Matt and his daughters Mattie and Annie check on the sheep herd on the mountain.

As a sixth generation farmer and agriculture instructor at Snow College, Matt Goble is no stranger to the bumps in the road that farming for a living brings.

Goble grew up over the mountain in Nephi on his family farming operation where they raised sheep, beef cattle and produced hay and grain crops. He, his wife Aimee and their two daughters raise sheep and grow forage crops in the North Sanpete area.

Agriculture and the knowledge of it flow in Goble’s veins. As an instructor, he teaches courses in livestock production, feeding and nutrition, farm machinery and irrigation managements, along with forage and grazing management.

When not instructing others about farming, he is living his own farm life and sharing it on his Facebook Page, “Dry Bottom Farms.”

Recently he shared a conversation with someone who mentioned they didn’t need rain and they enjoyed the hot days. They continued to tell him that yes farmers needed rain, but they personally didn’t.

According to Goble, drought and water issues are definitely on the forefront of farmers in Utah today. Water resources are becoming increasingly scarcer, and there is an ever increasing competition for the resource. Water storage is a huge issue in North Sanpete and water efficiency is much better when there is a form of storage to help allocate the resource.

There are many things that could help farmers and everyone else use less water and be more efficient if some improvements were made, Goble said.  Even without drought, water has a limited ability to meet demands and the entire water cycle must be taken into account. Drilling more wells doesn’t solve the problem.

Another hot topic Goble discussed is economic development and bringing in new businesses and housing projects. Goble has been told on occasion that you’re a farmer and farmers don’t make a lot of money. His response is that farmers may not make a lot of money, but they do spend a lot of it.  

Through Snow College’s Farm and Ranch Management program, local producers in the six county region are taught record keeping and financial analysis. These records provide in depth analysis of real economic data in the region. From the data collected from producers in the 2019, producers in this region spent nearly $302 million dollars, the majority going into the local economies of the area. These expenditures are for agricultural supplies from feed, seed, tires, repairs, but also groceries, insurances, taxes and other costs. This is not products sold, this is the money spent to produce the goods sold.

 Most often Gross Domestic Product is used to calculate economic data, but often overlooked are the revenues from those products being used to purchase all other expenditures for the operation, Goble said. These expenditures are what keep the rural economies thriving. When agriculture does well, the local economy thrives also. 

Here are some statistics that Goble shared. For the last two months Producers Livestock Auction in Salina has been selling a record number of cattle due to drought conditions. Over 1000 head every week. That’s’ over 8000 head of cattle that producers in the area no longer have for production. If the average return from a cow (income-expense) for the year is around $250, that’s a loss of production of around $2 million dollars. That’s $2 million dollars that will not be spent in the local economy and that’s just cattle.

These ramifications will be felt not only this year, but the next year as well until production can return to normal levels, Goble said.

 “We need to start talking about the economics that we already have here,” Goble said. “Get to know the farmers around you. Let them teach you about what they do and why they do it. There is a huge disconnect between consumers and agriculture, and it has led to a host of misinformation.”

He suggested that Sanpete needs to rally around the economics that have sustained this area for years, and think of how people can continue to support the largest economic driver in our area—agriculture. What businesses can be developed here that helps agriculture and also add additional jobs?

“We cannot become a bedroom community for the Wasatch front,” he said. “That does not bring revenues to the community. Neither can we rely solely on recreation and tourism. They are not a drop in the bucket compared to the revenues provided by agriculture.”

When people just live here and not work here, they tend to not spend here either. It’s very convenient to purchase goods and services where it is often cheaper in larger cities, but that doesn’t allow the revenue to trickle back to the community, Goble said.

“I think often people look for the silver bullet that will bring complete economic prosperity to an area, and often overlook what many times already has, or is already in place,” he said.