Do your youngsters know where their food comes from? -the grocery store, right! As harvesting begins in the river valleys of the Four Corners the next two months are a great time for a family trip that is “edutaining”. (If you are brave you might consider touring a van full of Scouts.) This is a tour out into the wide-open spaces, among the crop circles, and ranch land with not a computer game in view. The place to go is the San Juan River Valley around Farmington, NM. Abundant rivers and bright sun have made this region’s buttes, mesas, and fertile river valleys an agricultural center for centuries. Here are several rewarding stops along the way.
Start with an historic overview at Salmon Ruins http://www.salmonruins.com/ on the Bloomfield Hwy 64 just east of Farmington. This San Juan County museum is the site of an ongoing archaeological dig, which gives a picture Anasazi life almost 1000 years ago. These early settlers lived by the San Juan River growing corn and beans just as many Navajos do today.
On the flat lands atop the bluffs around Farmington on Rt. 371 you can visit the huge, 70,000 acre, irrigated farm run by NAPI (Navajo Agricultural Products Industry). At harvest time workers using thundering machines fill the fields, working from dawn to dusk bringing in beans, corn and pumpkins and potatoes to be sold under the Navajo Pride label. Over 8.5 million pounds of potatoes and 3 million pounds of beans are harvested each year from mid-August to October. Most of it ends up in grocery stores throughout the southwest and in Mexico. NAPI grown fresh produce can be purchased right there at the Farm Center Scales, off the frontage road near NM 371 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday. Group tours can be arranged and are conducted by appointment only. Visitors must inquire in advance and can contact NAPI Public Relations to arrange a tour at 505 566-2600.
Right next to NAPI is another learning opportunity, the NMSU Farmington Agricultural Science Center where scientists study to find plants that will grow best in the Four Corners. Here you can find ideas about environmental landscaping to try in your own yard. The Center has a Xeriscape Demonstration Garden which is open to the public from Monday through Friday, 8:00a.m. to 4:00p.m., except holidays. /http://farmingtonsc.nmsu.edu/
And finally head for the stop with something for everyone. Get out of the car, stretch your legs and tour the B-Square Ranch. It is a wildlife refuge, working farm and ranch, with two museums, privately owned by the Bolack family. This 12,000-acre ranch borders the San Juan River and welcomes not only two-legged visitors but waterfowl, pheasant, quail, hawks, eagles and owls. There are lakes filled with fish, cattle, sheep, pigeons and turkeys. B Square Ranch has a gate at 3901 Bloomfield Hwy. Tours must be arranged beforehand by calling 505 325-4275