The U of A journalism class visits Dos Cabezas Wineworks in Sonoita as part of their two-day introduction to the Sonoita / Elgin / Patagonia region. The group met with 18 different speakers from the community. The students will be writing articles over the course of the semester that will be compiled into a special edition of the Patagonia Regional Times in mid-May. Photo by Marion Vendituoli

The PRT hosted journalism students from the University of Arizona for two days, Feb. 6 – 7. The 20 students, who are a mix of seniors and graduate students, are collaborating with the PRT to produce a special edition of the paper, scheduled for mid-May, which will focus on our region and many of the issues that we face. 

To help the students get an overview of our communities, the PRT organized presentations by 18 local community leaders in various venues, including the Sonoita Fairgrounds, Dos Cabezas Wineworks, the Sonoita Elgin Fire District Station, the Borderlands Restoration Network Campus, the South32 Visitor Center, the Library, the Creative Arts Center, the Opera House, the Patagonia Museum, the Youth Enrichment Center, the Nature Conservancy Preserve and the Patagonia Town Hall. Topics ranged from mining to restoration economies, the Border Patrol to humanitarian efforts, from the arts to the challenges facing rural youth, from local history to the future of the region. 

“Our February trip and overnight stay in Patagonia was a very enriching opportunity for the students who would have otherwise stayed closer to campus,” said Professor Rux Guidi. “I could tell by the kinds of questions they were asking and by how much their story ideas evolved over the course of that weekend that the PRT visit broadened their minds in a way I couldn’t have created in the classroom.”

Logan Wallerstedt, one of the students who took part in the seminar, felt that the trip had given her helpful insight into the area. “I valued the connections I was able to make during my trip with the residents of Patagonia and Sonoita. Both towns were beautiful, full of history and life. Residents were welcoming and genuine everywhere we went. I enjoyed listening to the different perspectives of each individual in each town and their personal connection to the town. Both towns really would not be as safe and successful as they are without the love and support of the community that surrounds each resident. It was truly rewarding to have that experience.” Logan is working on an article about Mayor Andy Wood, and on a piece about property tax issues.

Sasha Hartzell commented that “Patagonia and Sonoita are rich in interesting people and projects – it was hard to believe how much one small area could contain. Just getting to talk to locals and seeing a slice of their lives was the most rewarding part of the trip for me. The itinerary was packed, like a crash-course on the place, and I ended up with so many potential stories.” Sasha is writing an article about residents having to drill their wells deeper, and one on emergency services in a rural area.

Presenters on Friday in Sonoita included Justin Bartine, the Sonoita Border Patrol community liaison agent, community organizer Kat Crockett, rancher and author Richard Collins, local historian and author Betty Barr, Kelly Bostock, from Dos Cabezas Wineworks, and Sonoita Elgin Fire District Chief Joseph DeWolf. In Patagonia the students met with Kathy Noaker, from Voices From the Border, Pat Risner, from South32, and Library Director Laura Wenzel. 

On Saturday, they visited the Patagonia Creative Arts Center and the Benderly Kendall Opera House, met with Carolyn Shafer from Patagonia Area Resource Alliance, Linda Shore, from Sky Island Tourism Association, and German Quiroga at the Patagonia Museum. 

They had lunch at the Patagonia Youth Enrichment Center, where Director Anna Coleman discussed issues facing youth in a rural community. Ron Pulliam addressed them in the afternoon, which was followed by a visit to the Nature Conservancy’s Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve. The day ended with a talk by Mayor Andy Wood about governance structure in the region.

As you can see, this was a very full schedule. To tell the truth, we never expected everyone to agree to speak to the students, but the response we got from our presenters was extraordinary. Everyone was more than willing to participate, gave well thought-out presentations and answered the students’ questions fully. On second thought, maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised by this response. Our region is packed with a disproportionate number of exceptional, supportive and generous people, after all.

Turn to page 11 for the first of our student articles to appear in the PRT. Sasha Hartzell and Clara Migoya came to Patagonia to cover the presentation at the library by humanitarian Scott Warren.