Local farms are working to educate and involve youth in local food systems in response to the rising census age in farmers and dwindling number of viable farms in the country.
Eden Vardy, director of the Farm Collaborative and CEO of 2Forks Club, is working to build community support systems in the Roaring Fork Valley to bring young, new farmers into the field.
“We continue to see the average of our farmers get older and older,” he said. “We continue to see the amount of farms we have get larger and larger and have less and less of them. The impacts of climate change and all the other global challenges thatwe’re facing today are amplifying the pressures that farmers face from being able to be effective in the field.”
The challenges that farmers must overcome to enter the field, especially in the high-mountain terrain of the Roaring Fork Valley, are substantial, say local farmers.
These challenges include the expense of equipment, finding staff, reliable housing, educated consumers, and managing land and weather conditions unique to the area.
THE FARM COLLABORATIVE: ASPEN’S BACKYARD
The Farm Collaborative is a non-profit organization on Cozy Point Ranch in Aspen that has worked in youth environmental education for years and has recently begun to make strides in farmer-support networks. The collaborative exists on a 25-year renewable lease from the City of Aspen, which has owned the Cozy Point Ranch since 1994.
The collaborative was born 15 years ago as a farm-to-table free community meal open to everyone for no cost by pre-reservation. With the help of about 250 volunteers, the event has been hosted at the Hotel Jerome near Thanksgiving in late November every year; but, since 2020, the event has been adapted as a farm-to-fridge model. All of the food, down to the herbs and spices, is grown locally and serves upward of 1,500 people.
“The premise of the event was to bring together people of all different segments of our community,“ Vardy said. ”It is so that, for one, we take kind of the stigma out of feeding people, but also so that the entirety of our community can come together in celebration of that which nourishes us.“