Cultivated land, including isolated farms in river valleys and considerable dry-farming acreage, is limited to a small percentage of the state's total area. Major crops are hay, corn, barley, and wheat, but the bulk of income from agriculture comes from livestock and livestock products, including sheep, cattle, dairying, and an expanding poultry industry. Abundant sunshine provides some compensation for inadequate rainfall, and the climate is generally moderate, allowing for substantial fruit production. Agrarian life was well suited to the principles of the Mormon settlers; moreover, they hoped that the difficulties of successfully farming the dry land would discourage non-Mormons from settling in the area.
The development of nonagricultural resources was more or less frowned upon by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and, in general, was initiated by non-Mormons. However, a wealth of minerals made mineral exploitation almost inevitable and, in turn, stimulated the construction of railroads. Today many residents are engaged in mining or mining-related industries. Copper is the chief metal, followed by gold, molybdenum, and magnesium. Other important mineral products include beryllium, asphalt, silver, lead, tin, fluorspar, mercury, vanadium, potassium salts, manganiferous ore, and uranium.
For many years high freight rates and the long distances to major markets, together with a Mormon distrust of industrialization, tended to discourage manufacturing. However, the establishment of defense plants and military installations during World War II spurred phenomenal industrial growth. The proximity of high-grade iron, coal, and limestone made Provo a steel center. Industrial plants extend from Provo to Brigham City, with the largest concentration in the Salt Lake City area. Utah is now a center for aerospace research and the production of missiles, spacecraft, computer hardware and software, electronic systems, and related items. Other major manufactures are processed foods, machinery, fabricated metals, and petroleum products.
Tourism has become increasingly important to the state's economy. In addition to the five national parks and seven national monuments, ski resorts, particularly in the Wasatch Range, are popular destinations. Since 1984, Park City has hosted the annual Sundance Film Festival.
Sections in this article:
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: U.S. Political Geography