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Reporting on science, technology and innovation in Arizona and the Southwest through a collaboration from Arizona NPR member stations. This project is funded in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.Additional stories from the Arizona Science Desk are posted at our collaborating station, KJZZ:

Yuma Ag Center, Visitors Bureau Win Tourism Award

Yuma Visitors Bureau

A recent change to Yuma’s Lettuce Days exposes thousands of visitors to ongoing research at a university farm. That effort has now been recognized with a statewide tourism award.

Governor Doug Ducey and the Arizona Office of Tourism presented awards last week in nine categories, including one for cooperative marketing through non-traditional or creative partnerships. A collaboration between the University of Arizona’s Yuma Agricultural Center and the Yuma Visitors Bureau took home this honor.

Dr. Kurt Nolte, the director of the Yuma Agricultural Center, began helping at Lettuce Days as a volunteer guide for ag tours. Over the years, his role expanded. In 2015, the University of Arizona hosted the annual festival at its research farm in Yuma.

“It provides us an avenue to communicate what’s new in agriculture in Yuma, what is going on in Yuma in the future, and how can we best meet the needs of our ag community through the eyes of the general public,” Nolte said.

He adds that because the ag center is both a research and teaching institution, public events such as Lettuce Days allow the U of A to have a greater footprint in the Yuma area.

And the equipment and field demonstrations are crowd-pleasers, says Ann Walker, media relations specialist at the Yuma Visitors Bureau.

“Lots of people who come to Yuma look out at all these fields and think, ‘Gosh, what’s going on?’ and would like to know more about it,” Walker said.

Agricultural tourism is also growing in popularity both statewide and nationally. More than 300 Arizona farms reported some form of income from agricultural tourism in the latest USDA census in 2012. This is up from just over 100 farms in 2007.