Venetucci Farm suspends sales over water concerns — KOAA

Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.
Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

From KOAA (Jessi Mitchell):

Venetucci Farm announced it would suspend the sale of its produce due to concerns over contamination in the Widefield aquifer.

The farm pumps its water from a well attached to the aquifer, and it was among the first properties to be tested for contamination. Those results are still pending, which led to Friday’s decision.

The EPA’s latest advisory level for PFCs is equivalent to one teaspoon of chemical in 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools. It may not sound like a lot, but in drinking water there are proven health impacts. Scientists are still studying fruits and vegetables grown with the water, but restaurants like Tapateria in Old Colorado City are hoping for the best.

“I think we just had some beets in about two weeks ago,” says Tapateria chef Jay Gust of his dealings with Venetucci Farm. He gets much of his meat and produce from southern Colorado growers.

“There’s been a huge push in getting local farmers into restaurants and I think it’s great and we definitely need it,” says Gust. “We need more of it, and hopefully this is just a mild speed bump and get back on track and just keep on pushing local cuisine.”

The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers tell Venetucci managers it could be up to two more months before there are any conclusive answers showing just how many, if any, PFCs show up in fruits and vegetables grown on the farm. So far, the EPA only advises pregnant and breastfeeding women to avoid drinking contaminated water, but there are no advisories for food at this point.

The farm’s owner, Pikes Peak Community Foundation, is acting in an abundance of caution. CEO Gary Butterworth says, “The concern was in our distribution to restaurants that we would not be able to communicate that, convey that to the end user, so we have not been providing products to restaurants directly for a period of time.”

Here’s the release from the Pikes Peak Community Foundation:

The Pikes Peak Community Foundation (PPCF) has decided to temporarily suspend sales and distribution of Venetucci Farm products until results from water, soil and produce testing are complete.
Venetucci Farm draws its irrigation water from the Widefield Aquifer, which recently was deemed to have exceeded health advisory limits for perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) levels by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“While we do not believe there are any health risks associated with the consumption of Venetucci Farm products, it is with the best interest of the community in mind that we have decided to temporarily suspend sales and distribution of our products while we gather additional information and data,” said Gary Butterworth, CEO of the PPCF. “We are awaiting more conclusive water, produce and soil test results to inform our decisions moving forward. We feel this precautionary measure is the best course of action based on the information we have today.”

The Foundation will continue to work with officials in Widefield, Security, Fountain, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the El Paso County Public Health Department as these agencies and municipalities gather additional data.

ABOUT VENETUCCI FARM
Located on the southwestern edge of Colorado Springs, this historic 190-acre urban farm, known as the “Pumpkin Farm” was established by the Venetucci Family in 1936. In later years, Nick and Bambi Venetucci were known for giving away thousands of pumpkins each fall to area school children.
Wanting to preserve this valuable piece of land as a farm, the Venetuccis put it into conservancy and gifted it to the Pikes Peak Community Foundation in 2006. Thanks to the generosity of the Venetucci Family and the Pikes Peak Community Foundation, Venetucci Farm is a working farm committed to growing healthy food and providing positive experiences for the Colorado Springs community.

ABOUT PIKES PEAK COMMUNITY FOUNDATION
The Pikes Peak Community Foundation (PPCF) was founded in 1996. The Foundation creates custom-designed charitable gift funds for individuals, families, and businesses, including donor-advised funds, donor-designated funds, endowment funds, memorial funds, and scholarship funds, providing flexible and inexpensive alternatives to setting up private or family foundations. PPCF also makes grants to support nonprofit organizations and community projects for the benefit of our community and stewards Venetucci Farm and Aspen Valley Ranch. For more information, visit http://PPCF.org.

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