As the Farm Collaborative’s founder and executive director, Eden Vardy has the world on his shoulders. The Aspen native works daily to address global climate problems through local food solutions. He leads by example, working to create the Farm Park, a permanent, unified learning center at Cozy Point Ranch where people can experience agricultural practices that give back to the earth rather than take from it. Aspen architecture firm Rowland and Broughton is designing the center.
The Farm Collaborative also offers kids’ summer camps and internships, but the most convincing program is the land itself. Through careful planting and help from many mentors, including Jerome Osentowski and Brook LeVan, Vardy has created a farm that also reduces and neutralizes carbon.
Case in point: he is planting a heritage orchard with 700 tall-growing, canopy fruit trees. Eventually, the fruit will be the happy by-product as carbon sequestration becomes the primary yield. Put more simply, the trees will inhale the carbon emitted by the farm and exhale oxygen.
Vardy chose trees with a life span of 150 to 200 years. Beneath the saplings, he plants crops—a practice known as alley cropping—and raises sheep and goats to create a robust, self-sustaining ecosystem. “If we’re raising animals between fruit trees, those trees provide shade for them and you get more robust meat yield,” he says. “Meanwhile, the animals fertilize the pastures and expand the water table. It’s an integrative system.”
It’s this type of thinking and doing that offers real hope. Vardy, who was recently appointed by Governor Jared Polis to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission, envisions similar farm collaboratives elsewhere. “Nature has been generous to us,” he says. “We need to create community centers that connect people to food and the places they live.”