Colorado Agricultural Adventures Bring Farm-Fresh Focus to Area

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Mesa Verde Country® continues 800-year-old agricultural tradition

Each year, more than 13 million visitors experience agritourism in Colorado, according to the Colorado Department of Agriculture, with nearly 700 farms offering agritourism and recreational services in 2007 (the last year for which the statistic is available). Whether stopping at a farm, shopping at a farmers' market or touring a winery, visitors are not only tourists, but are taking part in one of the fastest-growing industries in the nation.

In Colorado, the agricultural tradition is at its oldest in Mesa Verde Country®. The Ancestral Puebloans, the first agriculturalists in the area, farmed the valleys and the mesas of Montezuma County – including current-day Mesa Verde National Park – until around 1300 AD. Growing corn, beans and squash, and raising turkeys, they laid the agricultural foundation for today’s farmers and ranchers.

Farmers’ Markets – Three towns in the area offer weekly markets, replete with locally grown organic produce, locally produced crafts and live music. Between June and October, visit markets in Cortez (http://www.cortezfarmmarket.com) on Saturdays (7:30-11 a.m.), Dolores on Wednesdays (4-6 p.m.) and Mancos on Thursdays (5-7 p.m.). Also keep an eye out for produce stands throughout the area.

Museums – The Antique Tractor Outdoor Museum in Dove Creek (http://www.dolorescounty.org) features more than 100 antique tractors, farm implements and vehicles – almost all in full operating condition.

Farm and Ranch Stays – At Canyon of the Ancients Guest Ranch in Cortez, guests stay on a working farmstead that offers organic gardens and free-range eggs, and select their own vegetables for dinner. Stay at Turning Beyond Ranch in Mancos or Never M/T Circle Ranch in Cortez for a down-home farm vacation. Looking to become a cowboy for a few days? Take part in a cattle drive at East Pines Ranch in Cortez, a working cattle ranch raising natural breed.

Farm and Ranch Visits – Crabapple Tree Farm in Mancos offers breeding stock, local grass-fed lamb and wool while promoting the threatened Navajo-Churro breed of sheep. The Dragonfly Farm, a micro-eco farm in Dolores, offers tours and springtime classes. Flippin’ Eggs in Dolores offers free-range eggs as well as turkeys and other birds on a seasonal basis.

To see alpacas, visit Shadow Ranch Alpacas or Pelican Acres Alpacas, both in Dolores. Simmons Cattle Company and Organic Farm in Lewis runs an organic, natural operation. For a trip to the future, check out San Juan Bioenergy in Dove Creek, a production facility with capacity to produce 2.5 million gallons of vegetable oil per year.

Seasonal U-pick locations – Visitors can pick their own produce at seven farms: Apple U-Pick in Yellow Jacket; Hauser’s Pumpkin Patch in Cortez; Jones Farm in Cortez; Laughing Bear Orchard in Dolores; Confluence Farm in Mancos; and Tranquility Acres Farm in Dove Creek. Canyon of the Ancients Guest Ranch’s u-pick gardens are available to those not staying at the ranch, too.

Wineries – Yes, there’s a vineyard in southwestern Colorado! Visit Guy Drew’s Vineyards and tasting room in Cortez.

Restaurants – The award-winning Metate Room at Mesa Verde National Park’s Far View Lodge features sustainable and local heritage foods, Colorado wines and sustainable cuisine workshops. The Farm in Cortez serves locally grown, mostly organic food.

Unique Local Products – Try locally grown pinto and Anasazi beans from Adobe Milling in Dove Creek. Stores throughout the area carry high-altitude, local, red winter wheat flour from Cortez Milling. Local greenhouses and nurseries that specialize (and offer workshops) in native and drought-tolerant plants include Four Seasons Greenhouse and Nursery in Dolores, and in Cortez, Cliffrose Gardens and Let it Grow.

Annual Events – Major events include: the Four-State Ag Expo (March); Montezuma Country Fair (July); Mesa Verde Country Food, Wine & Art Festival (August); Harvest Brew Festival (September); and Pumpkin Festival (October).

Mesa Verde Country® (http://www.mesaverdecountry.com)
Mesa Verde Country is the southwest Colorado travel destination surrounding Mesa Verde National Park. The towns of Cortez, Dolores, Mancos and Towaoc, and the entire Mesa Verde Country area, comprise the archaeological center of America.

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Gaylene Ore
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