US (IL): Local farm aspires to global impact

Glimpses of bright, reflective ribbon shine out from between dense masses of green at the Wild Mountain Seeds greenhouse. These silver and neon orange ribbons are strung around plants that look healthy, green, and bear robust fruit. Around the flagged plants, others wilt and brown, struggling to grow. Casey Piscura, Seed Peace and Wild Mountain Seeds co-founder walk the rows. He is checking on plants, looking for those that handle various stressors well.

“Typically, the average farm is not running trials of multiple genetic variations. We’re really focused on staying up to date on best practices, identifying innovative new ways of growing, as well as running trails on diverse genetics,” he explains.

Seed Peace was born from Wild Mountain Seeds, a seed-breeding company that has operated on the Sunfire Ranch property along Thompson Creek in the Crystal River Valley for the past eight years. Seed Peace, a nonprofit, aims to change the paradigm around local food viability by bringing in the necessary resources to expand their plant and seed research capabilities, training young farmers to use this knowledge elsewhere, providing local hunger relief, caring for the soil and, ultimately, helping to fix what they deem is a broken food system.

“So, on the farm here, we have a library of seeds of probably over 500 different varieties of the common food plants. We’re looking at those across different environments to identify best performing ones and also utilizing diverse genetics to improve those crops,” Piscura explained.

Aside from working to create plants that thrive in the harsh Colorado climate, Seed Peace is also focused on education and mentorship. To help with all their research, Seed Peace hires an apprentice team each year, educating young farmers through hands-on experience. They also collaborate with and mentor other farms in the area, such as Highwater Farm in Silt and Green Boat Gardens in Carbondale, each growing Seed Peace plant varieties.

“In my first season working part-time for Wild Mountain Seeds, now Seed Peace, I was awe-struck by the pure quality of everything they were doing,” said Adam Ting, co-owner and operator of Green Boat Gardens. “From the amazing seed breeding to the healthy soil and vegetables, to the food pantry support. I had to learn more, so I stayed another season and then another. My time there helped me develop the skills and knowledge of growing food in the high mountains that gave me the confidence to start my own farm.”

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