COLORADO SPRINGS – A student work group representing four local institutions of higher education is recommending Venetucci Farm be converted into a wedding and events venue, whiskey distillery, and host site for a fall festival, reviving the farm’s popular pumpkin patch and giveaway.
The recommendations were announced Monday night in a presentation of the research and findings by the Quad Innovation Partnership, a collaboration of undergraduate-based research and problem-solving by students from Colorado College, the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak Community College, and the U.S. Air Force Academy. “We’re actually the only operating higher-education partnership in the country to combine this diverse set of institutions — a private liberal arts (college), a state research (university), a community college, and a U.S. Service Academy,” said Quad executive director Jacob Eichengreen.
Venetucci Farm has been shut down for agricultural purposes since 2016 since contaminated water was discovered on the property. The farm’s owner, the Pikes Peak Community Foundation, solicited the services of Quad to try to evaluate which of some 50 suggestions for future utilization of the property would be most viable. “It’s not every community that would entrust the future of an asset like Venetucci to undergraduate students,” Eichengreen said. “That’s not something that other communities do and that’s part of what makes Colorado Springs so special.”
Among the specifics of the students’ recommendation, utilizing the main barn on the property as a wedding and event venue, with an estimated annual revenue of $440,000 per year with a break-even on the $1.35 million investment sometime early in year three, an on-site whiskey distillery generating $700,000 in annual revenue due to its top-level status as movers among American-produced spirits, and utilizing revenues from both to host an annual Fall Festival featuring a corn maze, hay rides, petting zoo, food and beverage vendors, live music, and a return of the farm’s popular pumpkin patch, although the pumpkins would be brought to the site rather than grown in the fields due to the water contamination.
“They worked with comparable properties nationwide, they consulted with experts, and they have found that these three uses are really the highest and best use in terms of sustainability, in terms of community impact, and also in terms of preserving the legacy of the Venetucci family,” Eichengreen said. “It’s not a ‘Do these three things or don’t do anything.’ It’s ‘This is why we recommend this one use over this other use, why a distillery is a better fit than, say, beekeeping.'”
The Pikes Peak Community Foundation is under no obligation to act on the recommendations and the future of Venetucci Farm remains uncertain. Other Quad teams presenting Monday night recommended suggestions to El Paso County Public Health on how to improve healthy food access, to local tech firm Altia on augmented reality, and to the Innovations in Aging Collaborative on affordable housing for seniors.