Many agricultural communities have developed in Utah since the first settlement, but many no longer exist today. Some of these early communities experienced a "boom and bust," while others struggled for several years and were eventually abandoned. Johns Valley is a good example of these historic communities, as it experienced rapid growth and times of success and prosperity, yet it struggled and was eventually abandoned.
The situation in Johns Valley, from its early settlement to its demise, demonstrates the hope of the people who settled there and their efforts to make Johns Valley a productive and successful area. History also shows the growth of the area and the development of communities, with schools, churches, businesses, and other institutions - as was the case with most historic agricultural communities of Utah. Despite the hope and hard work, these agricultural communities could not overcome the environment, or other factors that led to their demise.
Dry farming was the main source of economic activity in Johns Valley and farmers had to rely upon adequate precipitation for crop growth. Dry farming is a technique often practiced in drier climates where irrigation is not readily available. Such areas do not have adequate precipitation in a single year, but in consecutive years there is often sufficient moisture for crop production. The main objective in dry farming is to maintain the soil in such a way that the soil will absorb and retain as much water as possible. The primary technique of dry farming is to allow the soil to remain fallow every other year. This practice allows the soil to store up water for two years so that there will be sufficient water for one year of crops.
Regardless of the hope and efforts of the farmers in Johns Valley, they too could not overcome the environment. Annual precipitation was often insufficient for dry farming in Johns Valley. Also, the erratic nature of the precipitation added to the downfall of farming activity in the valley, as adequate precipitation could not be relied upon from year to year or from month to month. Additionally, with Johns Valley being located 7,500 feet above mean sea level, the growing season was often too short to adequately allow crops to mature and produce a good yield. Other factors perhaps added to the discouragement of the people of Johns Valley, but the insufficient and erratic nature of the precipitation, coupled with the short growing season, were major factors in the abandonment of the area. The people of the valley voted to leave the area and sell their land and farms to the federal government.
College and Department
Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Geography
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Shelley, Wayne R., "The Development and Failure of Historic Agricultural Communities of Utah: A Case Study of Johns Valley, Utah" (1989). Theses and Dissertations. 5103.
Dry farming, Utah, Ghost towns, Johns Valley, History, Mormons, Colonization, Garfield County