Livestock, machinery, and agriculturalists of all ages unite this weekend at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds for the annual Four States Agricultural Exposition.
This is the 37th year of existence for the expo, and while it’s evolved over the past decades, even venturing into the garden realm at times, this year it’s solidly agricultural.
“It brings the community together,” said Spark Reed, the expo’s board president. “It says ‘ag.’”
The expo aims to promote agricultural progress and continuance in the Four Corners region by offering a place for those in the industry to collaborate, interchange ideas, and celebrate agricultural life and heritage.
The expo was founded as a nonprofit in 1981 and has become a landmark event in Montezuma County.
It takes place in March, Reed said, because it is a time that is “before the farmers are farming and the ranchers are through calving.”
Reed said that about 15 years ago, the expo was struggling.
“They were thinking about moving it to Farmington,” said Reed, who has been on the board for five years.
Ever since, they have been building it back up, he said. They have been nearing their goal of 10,000 attendees – last year, they saw 8,400.
This year’s event was divided among several distinct pavilions and arenas at the fairgrounds. Gaits clinics and other equine-related workshops were held in an Equestrian Arena at the base of the fairgrounds hill, alongside a show ring for livestock competitions, and the Children’s Ag Learning Facility in a separate barn beyond that.
In the main pavilion at the crest of the hill, over 80 vendors and community groups set up shop at various booths, promoting agricultural wares, practices and ideas. Vendors ranged from Stotz Equipment with its tractors, to Mountain Meadow with its Montezuma honey, to SWIIM System with irrigation management software.
Other local groups were also situated in the pavilion, including Republican and Democratic collectives, the Colorado Department of Agriculture and local media groups.
The Southwestern Cowbelles have been coming to the expo perhaps since the event’s inception, said Cowbelle president Brandee Simmons.
“It’s huge for the community, to be able to come out,” Simmons said. “In one spot, we’re able to talk to someone who does feed, does everything to do with agriculture. I think it’s hugely important for the community.”
Agriculture-related sessions and discussions took place in the main pavilion’s summit room, and the arena also hosted other crowd-pleasers, including chicken catching and tractor tug competitions for children.
Children and youth development were a heavy emphasis of the expo. Members of local FFA groups were on hand, decked out in navy blue to judge livestock competitions in the show ring.
“It is just so good to see all those kids in blue dressed up, dressed clean,” Reed said. “That’s our future in agriculture, and that’s why we keep this show going.”
Next door in the Children’s Ag Learning Facility, young people were able to interact with pigs, goats and chickens, or learn about worms from Montezuma School to Farm Project representatives.
Montezuma’s 4-H program had a strong presence, with young participants showing off animals they raised. The program has many different options from photography to STEM classes, said Kacey Riedel, director of the Montezuma County CSU Extension, but animal-raising projects are especially popular.
At the heart of the projects is teaching children ownership and responsibility, she said, as they must keep accurate records, tracking the growth and feeding habits of their animals – bookkeeping is a critical part of the agriculture industry. The kids spend a lot of hours with their animals, through good times and bad, she added.
And for animal lovers who don’t want to deal with the marketing side of 4-H competitions, there are dog- and cat-raising programs.
Ten-year-old Madison Thornbrugh, a fourth-grader at Mesa Elementary, helped out with goats at the expo, although she herself specializes in pig-raising. Goat attitudes can be hard to deal with in the show arena, she said.
“I love being outside with my animals,” she said of her participation.