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(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) LuAnn Adams and husband Bob ride with their grandchildren, from left, Brynlee, 2, Hayden, 5, Kylee, 3, and daughter-in-law Jenny, holding TayCee, 2, Saturday, February 22, 2014 at their ranch in Promontory. The former Box Elder County Commissioner, LuAnn Adams, is the new commissioner of Agriculture for Utah and the first woman to hold the post. Adams is a self-described cowgirl whose favorite thing is to ride horses, travel in an antique buckboard wagon and cook Sunday dinners for her five children and 12 grandchildren.
Utah’s first female agriculture commissioner gets things done

With roots to the land and the boardroom, Adams says she’s ready to “get ’er done.”

First Published Feb 24 2014 12:50 pm • Last Updated Feb 25 2014 09:36 am

Promontory » It’s a good thing that LuAnn Adams is a multitasker with a "get ’er done" attitude.

As Utah’s new commissioner of agriculture and food, she oversees 200 employees from eight state divisions responsible for — among many things — livestock grazing; weed eradication; soil conservation; meat and poultry safety; homeland-security issues; and even some consumer-protection policies, such as ensuring that the gas pump fills your tank with the correct amount of fuel.

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Having an impact on so many aspects of everyday life "thrills me," said Adams, who is the state’s seventh agricultural commissioner — and the first woman to hold the job.

Adams was a Box Elder County commissioner from 2011 until December, when she was appointed by Gov. Gary Herbert. She replaces Leonard Blackham, who retired after nine years in the position.

The state Senate confirmed Adams’ nomination last week. Before that, though, she was meeting with farmers, ranchers and lawmakers to talk about immigration, sage grouse habitat and other issues facing Utah’s agricultural landscape.

Adams takes over the department at a time when there is high interest in farming and food production.

Statistics show that in 2012, Utah’s farm income reached $1.8 billion, a jump of 28 percent since 2007.

The number of farms in Utah also grew in that five-year period, from 16,700 to 18,027, according the federal government’s 2012 Census of Agriculture report. Actual acreage has not increased, however, because of urban sprawl.

"They are mostly smaller farms catering to niche markets," Adams said of the new farms. "But the numbers are still exciting."

Women also are playing a bigger role, becoming the principal operators of more ranches and farms. The newest census numbers show that women operated 11.2 percent, or 2,018, of all Utah farms, an increase of 4 percent from 2007.

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That makes it a good time for Adams — a self-described cowgirl whose favorite thing is to ride a horse, travel in an antique buckboard wagon or cook Sunday dinner for a crowd — to take over the state’s agricultural reins.

While being the first woman in any post is significant, Adams doesn’t find a need to dwell on the distinction, especially coming from a ranching family in which both genders have always pitched in equally to guarantee survival.

"Our daughters and daughters-in-laws rope and brand and ride as well as any of the men," she said. "I’d put them up against any guy."

Herbert thought the same about Adams, saying she "brings the right mix of understanding of the agriculture industry and critical leadership skills to the job."

Or, as Adams says, "I’m a get ’er done kind of person."

Her family would agree.

"She can’t wait to dive in and get to work," said her son Ben Adams. "She likes to make work for herself."

Born on a potato farm in Idaho, Adams moved to Wells, Nev., at age 11 so her father and brother, a pharmacist, could operate a drugstore. While she lived in town during the school year, the summers were spent with friends on nearby cattle ranches.

It was there that Adams developed a love of the land and cattle ranching.

"I told my mom I was going to marry a cowboy, and guess what? I did," she said of her husband, Bob, whose 1,000-head cattle ranch and dry farm in Promontory have been in the Adams family for three generations.

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