There are no pumpkins planted in the fields at Venetucci Farms again this year. Instead, the Pikes Peak Community Foundation will bring in pumpkins from Milberger Farms in Pueblo County for the annual fall giveaway.
The groundwater contamination crisis that surfaced a few summers ago continues to present setbacks for the farm.
Foundation CEO Gary Butterworth said there will still be a caretaker on the property and they have contracted with a hay farmer to grow alfalfa and keep the soils in proper condition.
"We’ve got to have a presence on the farm and you have to care for the ground," he said.
The farm ordinarily leases water from its wells to the Security-Widefield Water District. In fact, its a major source of revenue for the various programs that take place at the farm. That money all dried up this year because the district can’t use the polluted well water.
So, Butterworth is calling on help from local college students to draw a road map for the future. The Quad Innovation Partnership is a collaboration of entrepreneurial-minded students from Colorado College, UCCS, Pikes Peak Community College and the US Air Force Academy. They tackle real-world challenges around the community and present their patrons with strategies for success.
"We see innovation, entrepreneurialism as essential skill sets of the 21st-century economy," explained Executive Director Jake Eichengreen. "Students who graduate who can handle ambiguity can answer questions, can move projects across the finish line do very well in their professional lives."
Butterworth said the Quad brings a lot to the table.
"They’re bringing obviously the power of the four higher ed institutions, they’re bringing real-world experience, they’re bringing students who are motivated, they’re creative they’re innovative."
Two teams of students will begin work next month testing ideas to see which will bring the greatest benefit to the farm over the long term. The teams are overseen by a professional project manager.
"So many good ideas have been offered in terms of how to sustain Venetucci, how to perpetuate its impact," said Eichengreen. "The work at this point is understanding viability, modeling impact, modeling performance, modeling operations. And that type of work so applicable to whatever our students are going to do once they graduate."
The teams for the summer term have already been selected. However, they will begin taking applications for the fall semester in August.