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New Mexico State University

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NMSU Conference Teaches Farmers and Ranchers About Agricultural Tourism

ALBUQUERQUE - Farmers, ranchers and rural residents can learn how to diversify income by tapping into agricultural tourism opportunities at a three-day conference March 4-6 in Albuquerque.

Folklorico dancers from Pancho Villa School in Nuevo Casas Grande, Chihuahua, perform at the annual reenactment of Villa's 1916 raid on Columbus. Participants at the March 4-6 New Mexico Agri-Tourism Conference in Albuquerque will learn how rural festivals like these can attract tourism income to local communities. (02/18/2004) (NMSU Agricultural Communications Photo by J. Victor Espinoza

The Agri-Tourism Conference-a first for New Mexico-will be co-sponsored by New Mexico State University and the New Mexico Beef Council.

"These are tough times for rural communities, so we want to help rural residents find additional sources of income," said Gerald Chacon, northern district director for NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service. "The conference will cover a lot of tourism opportunities that farmers and ranchers can take advantage of."

Presenters will showcase an array of tourism-related businesses with an agricultural or rural base, Chacon said.

"It includes everything from dude ranching to fee hunting, wildlife safaris, and agricultural festivals," Chacon said. "We'll teach about operating RV parks and bed and breakfasts that take advantage of our scenic countryside and historic and cultural sites."

Participants will hear success stories directly from business owners in New Mexico and other states, beginning with a keynote address by Richard Nichols, executive director of California's annual Gilroy Garlic festival, one of the nation's leading agricultural festivals, Chacon said.

"There are a lot of garlic growers in Gilroy, and the town has built a whole festival around that crop to attract tourism," Chacon said. "It's become a huge event that brings tourists to a community that otherwise wouldn't have a tourist economy. That's something we can learn to do a lot more of here in New Mexico."

New Mexico wine industry representative Maria Rinaldi will speak about the success of wine festivals in New Mexico. Pecan grower Bernice Ritch will talk about the annual Cuchillo Pecan festival, which attracts about 2,000 participants per year.

Owners of three dude ranches--Los Pinos Ranch in Pecos, Caprock Creek Ranch Adventure in San Jon and Thompson Ranch in Pintada--will discuss opportunities for ranchers to attract tourists with wagon and trail rides, cookouts and campsites.

David and Jenny Vigil, who own The Ellis Country Inn in Lincoln, and Magdalena Ranch owners Lee and Lori Scholes will talk about operating bed and breakfasts. Representatives from the Jicarilla Reservation and Pecos-based Bear Creek Adventures will discuss fee hunting, including guided tours.

Representatives from Santa Clara and Acoma pueblos and the Cuba High School Travel Academy will discuss opportunities to build on tribal agriculture, natural resources, and historic and cultural tourism attractions.

"We're making a special effort to reach out to the tribes, because they have tremendous potential they can still tap into," Chacon said. "Many are taking advantage of tourist opportunities, but the industry can be developed much further as a source of income for the tribes."

Other presenters will discuss alternative marketing for crops and value-added products through roadside stands, growers markets and wine tasting rooms. Presenters will also discuss opening farms to tourists with guided tours and fresh, on-farm meals.

Extension and NMSU experts will teach about creating business plans, meeting regulatory and insurance requirements, and finding technical assistance through NMSU's Rural Economic Development Through Tourism (REDTT) program.

On Saturday, March 6, participants can join one of three bus tours. Featured attractions will be the Valles Caldera National Preserve, Jemez-based Ponderosa Winery, Bonanza Creek Movie Ranch, Rancho de las Golondrinas museum, Poblanos Inn, Los Poblanos Organic Commodity Farm and Casa Rondeņa Winery.

Registration of $150.00 covers workshops, meals, snacks and bus tours. The conference includes a trade show of agri-tourism products and services. Booths are available for interested businesses.

The conference will be held at the Mountain View Holiday Inn, 2020 Menaul Boulevard NE in Albuquerque. To register, call Edmund Gomez at (505) 852-2668. For more information, call Chacon at (505) 983-4615.

If you are an individual with a disability who is in need of an auxiliary aid or service to participate in the workshop, please contact Chacon or Gomez in advance.