Venetucci Farm to halt all farming in 2017, with one exception

venetucci farm
Venetucci Farm / Christina Dawidowicz -- FOX21 News

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — It’s going to be even longer until Venetucci Farm products return to store shelves.

The Pikes Peak Community Foundation tells FOX21 News they are suspending all farming operations at Venetucci in 2017, with one exception.

Back in July, Venetucci Farm suspended sales and distribution for an undetermined amount of time over concerns about water contamination in the Widefield aquifer.

Perfluorinated chemicals or PFCs were found in the Widefield water system, the same system Venetucci Farm uses for irrigation.

“There is not a lot of information around the studies and the impacts of PFCs on irrigation water and soils,” said Gary Butterworth, CEO of the Pikes Peak Community Foundation.

Butterworth said until it’s known what type of effect these chemicals can have on soil and produce, the foundation is acting on an abundance of caution.

The water issue, along with a massive hail storm, caused the farm to cancel their annual pumpkin giveaway this year. It’s a tradition that’s been going on for decades and one the foundation is hoping it can bring back next year.

No fall harvest in 2017 means no spinach, tomatoes, carrots, garlic or potatoes. However, there is one exception.

“We do fully intend to plant and grow pumpkins,” said Butterworth.

It’s not yet certain if those pumpkins will be able to be distributed next year, but the hope is by then there will be a better understanding of PFCs.

“We have to ensure we understand what the impact of PFCs have on the produce and the products that we sell. We do know there are studies out there that say there is uptake. And part of our charge right now is to understand what does that mean? And to what level?” said Butterworth.

More samples from Venetucci Farm have been sent for testing after some initial water testing results came back positive for PFCs.

Butterworth said no matter what, the foundation is committed to Venetucci Farm and continuing its legacy for years to come.

“We are not selling the farm,” he said.

Butterworth said they are still evaluating whether or not they will be able to continue educational programs at the farm in 2017, and said that’s a decision that will come at a much later date.

As for the popular Bristol Brewing Venetucci Pumpkin Ale, it will still be for sale this year. Pumpkins for the beer are being provided by Milberger Farms in Pueblo and all the proceeds will still go back to Venetucci Farm. The pre-sale for the beer begins on October 23 at noon.

While Venetucci Farm is not being sold, the current home of the foundation is. Butterworth confirmed a sale has been closed on their current location at 730 North Nevada Avenue.

Their new location has not yet been finalized, but Butterworth said it will be in the downtown Colorado Springs area.

The move is just one step of a strategic plan to make the organization more accessible and more efficient. Butterworth said the foundation is shifting back to focusing on its three core values of asset development, donor services and community leadership.

Part of the process involves evaluating its current programs and ramping down the fiscal sponsorship program, but Venetucci Farm, Aspen Valley Ranch and the foundation itself aren’t going anywhere.

“Pikes Peak Community Foundation, fortunately for the good work of the people who have been involved and who’ve dedicated their careers and their volunteer time since 1998, we’re in a strong financial position, the farm is in a strong financial position. We’re here to stay,” said Butterworth.

In the reorganization process, Butterworth said five and a half jobs were eliminated, but two new full-time positions were created.

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