Agritourism Explained and Explored

Cortez, Colorado
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado, cliff dwellings
Mesa Verde National Park is home to beautiful cliff dwellings harkening an ancient time (Corbis)

Cortez, Colorado
Travel beyond the mountain towns of Southwest Colorado and you will catch a glimpse of the past, where architectural gems are tucked within sandstone canyons in the form of crumbling pueblos and cliff dwellings hugging high, rocky alcoves. These are silent reminders of the Ancient Puebloans of Mesa Verde Country that prospered in the area from 1 to 1,300 AD.

Blanketing the valleys and mesas at harvest time with gold, green, and brown are the agricultural crops once cultivated by the ancestral Puebloans, mostly corn, beans, and squash, which still fill the market baskets of today. Consider flying into Cortez, Colorado, a good location to begin an agritourism tour of the region. Rent a car and then take a road trip along the national scenic byway, the Trail of the Ancients, considered the "archaeological heartland of America."

Many area farms and ranches offer agricultural adventures, but start with a stop at the Anasazi Heritage Center for an overview of the history and culture of the region's indigenous peoples. An hour or so can be spent in the museum viewing exhibits and interactive displays. A few favorites are the prep and cooking display, where visitors can use a metate (stone utensil) to grind corn as the Puebloans did more than a thousand years ago.

Head to Dove Creek, a town that reigns as "Pinto Bean capitol of the world." On either side of the road, travelers will see miles and miles of dry-land beans growing, mostly Pinto and Anasazi varieties. In fact, Anasazi Beans were one of the few cultivated crops grown by the Ancestral Puebloans. Stop at Adobe Milling Company to buy sacks of beans to take home.

To glimpse modern farming tools besides the hoe and metate, be on the lookout for antique tractors, more than 100 of them, at the Antique Tractor Outdoor Museum also located in Dove Creek.

For a place to bunk in the area, Canyon of the Ancient's Guest Ranch is a top choice to pair agriculture with archeology. Guests are welcome to participate in farm chores like feeding animals, irrigation, and gardening. Plus, they're invited to pick their own veggies and free-range eggs from the hen house for meals. Indian ruins have been found on the property as well as petroglyphs; you can ask the owners for a tour of these special sites.

DO: Hike the cliff house ruins and trails at Mesa Verde National Park, Hovenweep National Monument, and Canyon of the Ancients National Monument for a remarkable view back in the time of the Ancient Puebloans.

Published: 25 Oct 2010 | Last Updated: 7 Nov 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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