The Farm Collaborative and Seed Peace join forces to form larger agricultural nonprofit
Two local agricultural nonprofits are merging to form one larger organization that will operate under The Farm Collaborative’s name and tax ID.
The Farm Collaborative, based at Cozy Point Ranch near Snowmass Village, will join forces with Seed Peace, based at Sunfire Ranch near Thompson Creek outside of Carbondale.
A press release announced the merger on Wednesday night, citing “an effort to build a more resilient, robust, and thriving local food system, and to increase efficiencies while maximizing impact.”
Food production, farmer support, programming and facilities will keep running at both sites, and “Seed Peace’s farmer programs and production will expand to both sites,” according to the release.
Seed Peace executive director Casey Piscura will now serve as the agriculture director of The Farm Collaborative, and Eden Vardy will continue to serve as executive director.
The Farm Collaborative’s former agricultural director Cooper Means is currently in a “supervisory and transitional role” but will be moving on in the future, according to Vardy.
Informal discussions about the merger began about seven months ago; Vardy and Piscura have spent the last five months “very intensively working on the specifics,” Vardy said in a joint phone interview with Piscura on Wednesday night.
Vardy said the Roaring Fork Valley organizations share a goal of “food resiliency,” referring to the capacity of the region to meet the food needs of its population.
“By having a unified and collective effort working on resiliency in our food system, the capacity to really grow and serve the community in a more meaningful and robust way is significantly increased,” Vardy said.
Piscura believes the merger will “enhance” the organizations’ capacities “by focusing more on what parts we're best at, and then lending a hand in others,” he said.
Both nonprofits offer programs focused on education, innovation and training for young local farmers, with an emphasis on “incubating” the next generation of agricultural producers in the Roaring Fork Valley.
As part of the merger, The Farm Collaborative plans to “allocate more resources [and] a larger team” toward growing its agricultural programs and “significantly more acreage will be moving into agricultural production over time,” Vardy said.
Vardy said merging the organizations’ tax and accounting requirements will help consolidate clerical expenses, freeing up additional financial resources for agricultural work.
“The capacity to basically expend them once for two organizations allows us to put more of our resources into our mission and into the work that we each do in carrying out a healthier food system for the community,” Vardy said.
According to Piscura, joining forces and sharing resources will help the organizations “be more effective and really utilize the donation revenue in the best way to serve our collective mission.”
Seed Peace is the younger of the two organizations, though both Piscura and Vardy have a decade-plus of agricultural experience in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Vardy founded The Farm Collaborative in 2008 as “Aspen T.R.E.E.” The organization operates a “Farm Park” on City of Aspen open space at Cozy Point Ranch that functions as both an educational facility and food-growing site. The organization logged almost $2 million in revenue and about $660,000 in expenses in the fiscal year ending in 2021, according to a state report of Colorado-based charities that was released in January.
Piscura launched Seed Peace three years ago as a philanthropic offshoot of Wild Mountain Seeds, a seed-breeding company he started about a decade ago that also operates at Sunfire Ranch. Wild Mountain Seeds will continue to operate as its own entity, Piscura said. Financial data on Seed Peace was not included in the state report on nonprofits for the fiscal year ending in 2021 or 2020.
Both organizations are on the “cusp of expansion,” Piscura noted.
The Farm Collaborative plans to build a new learning center and “incubator kitchen” this spring, supported by a $966,000 allocation from the U.S. Senate, according to a press release statement from Farm Collaborative board chair Jeff Davlyn.
At the site at Sunfire Ranch, there are plans to build a new nursery, construct a new “hoop house” greenhouse and double outdoor growing space this year, according to Piscura. A four-season produce washing and packing facility could be the “next real focal point,” Piscura said.
Piscura and Vardy both believe the merging of the two nonprofits will bring qualifiable benefits as well as quantifiable ones to their work.
“We see the bringing together of the two organizations as a new entity that is significantly bigger and stronger than the sum of its parts,” Vardy said.