Local Brewer Saves Venetucci Pumpkins with Help from PPCC and Partners

By Leslie James, Student Editor

The Venetucci Farm has been a wonderful community asset for over a century in Colorado Springs, but was recently disrupted when high levels of preflourinated compounds (PFCs) were found in 2017 in the Widefield aquifer that irrigates the farm. Quad Innovation Partnership is on the move to revitalize the farm, utilizing teams of students and faculty, including two students from Pikes Peak Community College, and alumni from other Colorado schools.

Located about 10 miles from Peterson Air Force Base, cadets have been spraying a foamy fire retardant for decades that were confirmed to have leaked into the aquifer, according to information collected by the Army Corps of Engineers. The farm fell under hardship when the Environmental Protection Agency lowered the considered-safe levels of PFCs in May 2017, now marking the farm’s produce unsafe for human consumption because of the water’s high levels of PFCs.

The farm has acted as a gateway into academic research since the devastating contamination. The land was donated by the original owners, Nick and Bambi Venetucci, to Pikes Peak Community Foundation. The foundation has since commissioned academic research from QUAD Innovation Partnership for viable uses for the farm.

This is the first year Quad has partnered with the foundation.

Beka Adair, assistant director for Quad, said the research is being conducted throughout three 10-week long phases. The first phase began in June, the second phase began in September, and the third phase will begin in February 2019.

The summer team of students started with nearly a hundred ideas for the farm, then compiled the load down to the most practical and advanced ideas for financial stability, feasibility, community impact and other environmental impacts.

“I am incredibly impressed with the team. There are two PPCC students, two Air Force Academy cadets, and one University of Colorado in Colorado Springs student. It’s been wonderful watching the team and they get a lot of work done,” Adair said.

The students are expected to spend 10 hours a week on the farm, regroup twice a week for analysis, and the rest of their time they work independently.

Jeremy Morse and Jeremy Stauceanu are two PPCC students involved with Quad’s Venetucci Farm project.

This research serves for a mutually beneficial relationship between the schools and the farm. Students apply their knowledge to real-world issues, while a farm that is desperate for solutions can re-grow.

Through tension and devastation between the neighbors, the base donated money to aid the farm’s water treatment when they first learned of the chemical contamination.

Community members around Colorado Springs have supported the farm for many years. Bristol Brewing Company has been picking pumpkins from the farm since 2007 to brew into their famous Venetucci Pumpkin Ale, supporting the patch by collecting pumpkins, then donating profits from the beer to the far. This beer is the brewery’s first community ale. By contributing the beer to Venetucci Farm, Bristol Brewing Company donates 100 percent of the profits.

“It’s safe to say as of 2016, over $300,000 has gone directly to Venetucci,” Steve Oliveri, Bristol Brewing Company’s communication, development, and sustainability specialist, said.

“We intend to move forward and support what the direction the farm moves in as long as we feel the farm remains a part of the community,” said Oliveri.

Thirty pumpkins have also been grown throughout community gardens to support the brew.

The Venetucci Pumpkin Ale release is set for October 18 at the Bristol pub in Ivy Wild School. For the past two years, amid the contamination crisis, Bristol Brewing Company has been collecting pumpkins from Milberger Farms in Pueblo, but profits from the beer will still benefit Venetucci Farm.

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