There are more agritourism resources than ever available in southeastern Colorado, a development highlighted by the recent regional tourism summit held in La Junta, according to Baca County rancher Lenaha Everett.

There are more agritourism resources than ever available in southeastern Colorado, a development highlighted by the recent regional tourism summit held in La Junta, according to Baca County rancher Lenaha Everett.

“I think it’s a great thing,” she said. “Tourism in southeastern Colorado is not a super hot topic. In this area there typically hasn’t been a lot of support for agritourism.”

Everett and her husband Casey operate a working ranch and small feedlot near Pritchett. When the Colorado Agritourism Association was formed three years ago, she was named one of the original board members. More recently, she was tapped to organize a post-summit ag tour for attendees who wanted to see some of the unique agricultural operations in the area.

During the recent summit, participants also had the chance to meet Jill Lammers, who was hired as the Colorado Tourism Office’s director of heritage and agritourism four months ago.

Previously, she worked as a community development specialist in Eagle County. In her new job, she travels the state helping rural communities identify, develop and promote their tourism assets.

“I’m super-excited about it,” she said.

For farmers and ranchers, agritourism is a way to diversify and bring in extra income while educating the public about the industry of agriculture, Everett said.

“People want to get back to their roots,” she said. “Agritourism definitely plays a role in that. It’s fun, but it’s also educational. That’s really what drew me to it.”

Everett and her husband own Canyon Journeys, a company that offers tours and lodging in western Baca County. The biggest aspect of their business is providing a guesthouse for bird-watching groups in the spring and fall.

“The neat thing about southeastern Colorado is that we are in a huge migration flyway,” she said. “Out of the 400 different species of birds in Colorado, you can see over 300 of them in Baca County. It’s definitely a major attraction.”

She’s also contracted with the forestry service to serve as an interpretive guide for the Comanche National Grasslands, leading visitors on hikes into the local canyons.

“I felt like most people were missing the cool stuff, so that’s why I decided to do it,” she said.

The Everetts also direct-market some of their own home-raised beef.

She believes all farmers and ranchers share a responsibility to help educate the public about how food and fiber are produced. In turn, she said hosting visitors from all over the world has made her more aware of agriculture’s unique blessings.

“Sometimes it’s easy to miss what’s right in front of your nose,” she said. “It helps to have people who will come to visit and point that out to you.”

For anyone in southeastern Colorado who is interested in learning more about agritourism she urges them to check out the agritourism association’s new website and consider getting involved in the group.

“We have some good momentum going,” she said. “We just put on our first annual conference in March.”

Other helpful resources include the Santa Fe Trail Association and Canyons & Plains of Southeast Colorado, a nonprofit promotional group that has brought in more than a million dollars in grants to promote the area.

“They were how I first got involved, and they are really the reason I am running an agritourism business today,” she said.

“There is so much more power in working together as a group as opposed to just going it on your own,” she added.

Lammers said her goal is to help rural tourism businesses become “visitor-ready” while working to reveal more of the state’s hidden gems. The state tourism office recently published a new Colorado Field Guide specifically aimed at helping Colorado residents explore less traveled areas of the state.