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Common Ground: Film Panel Discussion

This event was recorded on May 9, 2024 at TACAW, in partnership with Aspen Public Radio.

Farmers and ranchers from the Roaring Fork Valley speak about regenerative agriculture and connecting communities through food during this panel at The Arts Campus at Willits (TACAW). The conversation took place before a screening of "Common Ground," a new documentary about the ways in which farming practices can impact human health and the environment. The event was organized by the Aspen Valley Land Trust (AVLT), the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES), and the Farm Collaborative, with support from TACAW and Aspen Public Radio.


Common Ground is a rousing and uplifting feature-length documentary that shows a pathway to transform our unhealthy and corrupt industrial agricultural food system into an ecological way of growing food that can restore our health, our communities, and our climate. The film chronicles the budding “Regenerative Agriculture” movement, a type of farming based on working with nature, instead of against it.

Directed by eco-filmmaking duo, Josh Tickell and Rebecca Tickell, (Fuel, The Big Fix, Kiss the Ground), the new film features appearances and narration by notable Hollywood talent including Laura Dern, Jason Momoa, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson, Ian Somerhalder, and Donald Glover. The star-studded narration is structured as a heartfelt letter to our children’s generation – the very generation who will soon inherit the Earth. The letter, and the film itself, is an urgent message about the harsh realities of our future, as well as a hopeful and practical plan for how to mend the broken systems that dictate human existence on Earth.

Common Ground chronicles the struggles and triumphs of a politically and culturally diverse group of farmers, ranchers, scientists, and advocates who all share one thing in common: they believe in a way of ecological farming that builds soil. By using a fusion of ancient wisdom and modern technology, the farmers and ranchers in this movement make more money and grow more nutrient-dense food than their “conventional” farming counterparts. These “regenerative pioneers” argue that to save humanity from multiple imminent calamities, we must first save our soil. Common Ground shows that soil is quite possibly the most valuable substance on our planet, because “if our soil dies, we also die.”


Kaya Williams – Moderator / Aspen Public Radio

Kaya Williams is the Edlis Neeson Arts and Culture Reporter at Aspen Public Radio, covering the vibrant creative and cultural scene in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley. Williams joined the team after a stint at The Aspen Times, where she reported on Snowmass Village, education, mental health, food, the ski industry, arts and culture and other general assignment stories. Before moving to Aspen in October 2020, Kaya was a freelance researcher for the podcast team at America’s Test Kitchen, where she helped produce “Proof,” “The Walk-In” and “Mystery Recipe” while working from her mountain hometown of Tahoe City, California. She studied journalism and history at Boston University, where she also worked for WBUR, WGBH, The Boston Globe and her beloved college newspaper, The Daily Free Press.

Casey Piscura / The Farm Collaborative

Casey Piscura is a Roaring Fork Valley based farmer, seed breeder and regenerative agriculture educator. Casey founded Crystal Valley based seed farm, Wild Mountain Seeds, in 2013 on historic Sunfire Ranch where he operates today. In 2019, Piscura launched local nonprofit Seed Peace with a mission “to accelerate the Roaring Fork Valley’s transition to regenerative agriculture and land management”. Casey now assumes the role of agricultural director at The Farm Collaborative after merging his nonprofit and continues his diverse innovative work valley wide. Casey has spent more than a decade feeding the community through farmers markets, CSA shares, restaurants, food banks and small grocers. His seeds have attracted a nationwide and international audience for their resilient nature, vigor, beauty and flavor, and have been proven to thrive on farms and gardens in the Roaring Fork Valley and beyond.

Mariah Foley / ACES Agriculture Manager

Mariah Foley is in her sixth growing season at Rock Bottom Ranch, and 12th year measuring time in growing seasons. A love for outdoor recreation in the mountains morphed into a career in farming through a desire to deepen her relationship and connection with land. Farming allows Mariah to be a participant in stewarding the social and ecological communities that help nourish her. Before moving to the Roaring Fork Valley to work at Rock Bottom Ranch in 2019, Mariah farmed at larger scale organic vegetable farms in south central Pennsylvania and Boulder County, CO.

Mariah’s farming career began while she was an undergrad at the University of Denver, taking every class having to do with food systems and agriculture. She ended up with a cocktail of majors and minors in Geography, International Studies, and Sustainability.

Brian Hightower / AVLT Ranch Manager and Education Coordinator

Brian moved to the Roaring Fork Valley from Virginia for the summer of ’93 and never left.After teaching social studies in Aspen for 12 years, he traded his indoor classroom for an outdoor one with AVLT. Since 2016, he has facilitated outdoor education opportunities for students and educators in the valley and beyond. In 2019, AVLT’s efforts to protect a piece of agricultural history intersected fortuitously with Brian’s passion for healthy food and local ecosystems. In anticipation of AVLT’s Coffman Ranch acquisition, Brian completed a Master’s in Regenerative Agriculture in 2022 and added Ranch Manager to his job description. He is consistently working to employ best practices that are focused on soil health and biodiversity and is one cattle drive away from earning his cowboy hat.


Aspen Valley Land Trust is the only local non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving land forever in the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys. For 57 years, AVLT has been a trusted community-supported conservation partner helping to ensure the natural and community health of our region.


Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES), a non-partisan, nonprofit organization, provides enriching environmental literacy programs for kids, teens, and adults as well as community and business leaders. With three locations between Aspen and Basalt, ACES offers year-round programs focused on science, ecology, natural history, stewardship, forest health, regenerative agriculture, civic leadership, and more. For more information and a full listing of ACES offerings, visit www.aspennature.org


The Farm Collaborative is a community-driven organization dedicated to accelerating the regenerative agriculture movement, environmental stewardship, and education. Through our programs and initiatives, we strive to create a more resilient and interconnected community that values and protects our planet.