Get prepared for the farming and ranching season at the Four States Agricultural Exposition March 14-16.
The long-running tradition at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds is in its 37th year and is packed with 100 vendors, horse demonstrations, educational forums, beef shows, 4-H events and live music.
The Ag Expo provides a boost for the upcoming agricultural economy, said director Radiance Beal, while also seeding the next generation with a robust youth education program.
“It brings knowledge to the community, technology ideas, and helps the farmer improve their operation, whether it is large or a backyard operation,” she said.
New this year is a draft-horse pulling contest, plus demonstrations from Tyler Wilbanks on how he farms with a horse instead of a tractor. There’s a growing trend of using draft horses to plow, rake, plant, seed and harvest, Wilbanks said.
The Children’s Agriculture Learning Facility will run all three days. The program is put on by the Montezuma School to Farm project.
Organizers expect more than 600 kids, double the participation from a few years ago. Students from area schools arrive to tour a variety of stations focused on farming, agricultural science, irrigation, crops and livestock. There is a lot of hands-on educational learning, and every school participates.
“For a lot of city kids, it is the first time being around livestock, and they get a sense of where their food comes from,” said expo board member Kristi Ross.
The Ag-ceptional Rodeo, which accommodates youths with disabilities, also is returning, and is becoming a regional hit, Ross said. The event gives participants the chance to learn how to rope, ride and barrel race in a safe environment with instruction from experienced cowboys and cowgirls. This year, a piñata event has been added.
Last year, the Ag-ceptional rodeo attracted 38 kids and their families, but this year, 90 kids are expected to arrive, Ross said, including from Bayfield and Pagosa Springs.
“The word got out last year. It’s becoming a big draw because of the really wonderful experience for the kids,” she said.
The Ag Summit will feature a hemp update and panel discussion organized by Abdel Berrada of Mesa Verde Ag Solutions, and Dr. Katie Russell, of the Southwest Colorado Research Center. Topics include hemp uses, rules and regulations, and suppliers and processes. Local growers will share their experiences.
Ag Summit presentations also include: Planning for an uncertain future in the Colorado River Basin, homesteading with horses, fitting classes and beginning showmanship. There will also be a video shown of local historic burro packer Olga Little hosted by one of her relatives. Little delivered supplies to remote mines in the area and was the only female “jackpacker.”
Herding dog trials sanctioned by the American Kennel Club are also new this year. There will be judged competitions for trainers putting their working dogs through the paces moving livestock in and out of pens and out in the open.
Madison Shambaugh will host a horse-training clinic. Known as “Mustang Maddy” she travels the country teaching the “Five Golden Rules” to improve the rider-horse relationship. She has also has successfully trained a zebra, and might include it in her program.
“Most horsemen would agree that zebras — an undomesticated species — are untrainable, but that is not true,” Shambaugh said. “You have to understand their nature and push beyond what was perceived to be possible.”
Other horse clinicians are Randy Helm and Larry Whitesell. Helm has been training horses for over 30 years and is the supervisor of the wild horse inmate program at Florence State Prison in Arizona.
Whitesell is a former horse judge and an expert in gated breeds. He desires to help horse owners “make their horses gait safe, soft, and to gait without losing relaxation.”
Throughout the expo, there will be classic farm and ranch entertainment, such as a beef show, chicken chasing, pedal tractor pull, stock dog events, agricultural mechanics, antique farm equipment, ice cream eating contest, plus more.
Local bands will include Donny Johnson, Thistledown, Wanda Martin, Nolan King, Lynne Belle Lewis, Slim McWilliams, Linda Carter and Friends and Southwest Singers. The Good Intentions will close out the expo with a concert at 4 p.m. on March 16 on the Main Stage.
“We are all so energized and excited about this year’s expo. Our event is on the radar in the region and attracts top-notch presenters,” Ross. The event relies on the assistance from 54 dedicated volunteers.
Admission is $5 at the gate or $12 for three-day pass. For more information and a schedule, go to fourstatesagexpo.com