West Haven, Utah • As Utah’s population booms, some farmers in Weber County are making the tough but sometimes lucrative decision to sell their land as small family plots give way to homes.
The loss of open farmland has led to nostalgia for people connected to the county's agricultural heritage and disappointment for people who moved to the county because of its open, rural feel.
The chance for struggling farmers to sell land for good prices to developers has given some farmers the opportunity to comfortably retire.
Farmer Phil Green recently sold 56 acres of land his family used for a dairy farm and to grow hay and corn. Today, 100 new houses fill land that used to be a wide open, the Standard-Examiner reports.
As he looks out at the new homes from his house on a plot of the land he kept, the 66-year-old has mixed emotions about land that holds intimate memories that go back several generations.
“It rocked me a little bit. It was hard to let it go,” Green said. “I take a walk down there and cry every once in a while. But I’m glad I had the opportunity to sell mine.”
Weber County Commissioner Scott Jenkins shares the nostalgia for the days of open farmlands, but said selling the land is sometimes a no-brainer for farmers who can sell land for $60,000-$80,000 per acre because of the high demand for new housing.
“Life’s tough on them. They struggle even making a profit,” Jenkins said. “It’s dollars and cents. It’s the economic cycle we live in.”
Henry Prevedel, 71, and his two sisters agonized over selling 60 acres that their late father started farming in 1941. The housing development planned on the land also generated backlash from some neighbors who worried about disruption and traffic.
He takes solace in knowing that the development is supposed to provide options for people from all different economic classes.
But, he and his wife, Terry Prevedel, said they may need to leave town when developers start clearing the land and when they tear down the home where his mother lived.
Henry Prevedel said he and his sister had been talking about selling the land for 15 years and held out as long as they could in deference to their parents.
“We hope they’re up there saying it’s time,” he said about his late parents.
Green said the fact that his four adult kids weren’t interested in taking over the farm made his decision to sell his land easier.
“It’s tough to work seven days a week, 365 days a year and basically break even,” Green said. “It’s to the point where farming is so difficult and kids can make more money doing something else.”