Ag expo launches

County’s agricultural community comes together for annual event

The Four States Agricultural Exposition hopes to bounce back from a drop in attendance last year with a revitalized program.

The Ag Expo began Thursday at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds in Cortez.

Long one of the Four Corners’ most prominent and longest-running agricultural events, the expo drew about 8,000 attendees in 2013, said Kevin Lanyon, president of the organization.

This year, the expo is bringing in well-known horse trainer John Lyons, increasing entertainment throughout the show, including Durango’s Bar D Wranglers, and expanding the children’s program.

“We felt the show needed a refresher,” Lanyon said. “We needed to shake things up.”

The expo wants to bring in local residents who are not necessarily involved in agriculture full-time, he said.

“We really wanted to try to appeal to a broader spectrum,” he said. “We wanted to reach out to folks who, maybe they’re not into farming, but maybe they’re into gardening.”

The expanded children’s program has been renamed CALF – Children’s Ag Learning Facility, formerly Ag Adventure.

This year’s expo will also feature a yak presentation.

More than 200 vendors will attend. All the vendor slots are sold-out, organizers said.

“My favorite part is just interacting with people,” said Dusty Beals, owner of Hayes Ranches on the Dryside, west of Breen. “You see neighbors, you see people you haven’t seen in a long time.”

Beals serves as chairman of the bull and heifer sale. The sale is one of the expo’s highlights.

“Last year’s show, we had zero, no sales – none,” Lanyon said.

Agriculture in Southwest Colorado faces a host of challenges, from drought to rising land prices.

Beals said the effects of drought conditions vary widely.

“It’s dry for some, but in other places, it’s not really that dry,” he said. “Montezuma County’s expecting to have an OK year for irrigation, so there is going to be some pasture.”

Hay prices could go either way, Beals said.

“We have to look at how the drought is affecting our community, but we have to also look at how other communities are abundant in water, which also affects our community in hay and cattle prices,” he said.

Land prices are also affecting agriculture, especially in La Plata County.

“La Plata County used to be a huge ag community and we’re losing that – not only because of the drought but high land prices,” Beals said. “Change is good to a point, and bringing new people in is good to a point, but I hate to see ag land go away.”

The expo runs through Saturday.

cslothower@durangoherald.com

Braden Schmittl pours soapy water onto his washboard as he teaches students how to make alpaca soap at the Four States Ag Expo. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Braden Schmittl pours soapy water onto his washboard as he teaches students how to make alpaca soap at the Four States Ag Expo.

Jason Patrick gives a horse training course at the Four States Ag Expo Thursday morning. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Jason Patrick gives a horse training course at the Four States Ag Expo Thursday morning.

Braden Schmittl pours soapy water onto his washboard as he teaches students how to make alpaca soap at the Four States Ag Expo. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Braden Schmittl pours soapy water onto his washboard as he teaches students how to make alpaca soap at the Four States Ag Expo.

Jason Patrick gives a horse training course at the Four States Ag Expo Thursday morning. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Jason Patrick gives a horse training course at the Four States Ag Expo Thursday morning.