Outlining Our Ecological Vision
Planning for Venetucci Farm and Pinello Ranch: 2015
Healthy land and soil leads to healthy food which makes for healthy people. This is the essence of looking at how the environment, food and people are tied together.
Since roughly two-thirds of land in the continental United States is being used for agricultural production, decisions made by American farmers and ranchers profoundly affect the environment and the health of the people in the United States.
At Venetucci Farm and Pinello Ranch we believe that healthy food and a healthy environment are not in contrast to one another but rather support one another. Here are three specific areas we are working on in 2015.
Pinello Ranch is blessed with ample water resources which include springs, ponds and Fountain Creek. All of these elements are tied together with water from Fountain Creek irrigating productive hay meadows.
How water flows through the property affects everything from tree growth and hay production to wildlife health. Water flow is all about the timing and amount of water and where that water flows.
We are working on a wetlands project that will show how water management can create dramatic results. Partnering with Colorado Springs Utilities and the US Fish and Wildlife Service this project will create acres of additional wetlands. This will be important wildlife habitat, and we are excited that breaking ground on this project is slated for 2015!
Large hay meadows, pasture and grain fields dominate the lower portion of Venetucci Farm and portions of Pinello Ranch. These grasslands and grain fields produce important food for people, livestock and wildlife. Birds like Western Meadowlarks and Savannah Sparrows nest in these fields and eat insects which help us keep more of our hay and grain crops.
Keeping fields covered in crops and pasture reduces soil erosion, controls weeds and lessens the amount of water needed to keep a healthy soil microclimate. By timing the grazing, watering and harvesting of these fields and taking care in how the work is done, grassland bird species can thrive along with the farm.
Venetucci farm and Pinello Ranch have long and fascinating histories that have much to tell us about the cultural heritage of the Pikes Peak Region. Over time as these properties changed hands, a host of non-native plant and animal species have invaded. These invaders range from plants like Teasel, Tamarisk and Russian Olive to animals like Bullfrogs and Carp.
Invasive species come from other ecosystems, but without the natural controls that keep them in check in their native habitat. They are thus able to out-compete native plants and animals and our entire ecosystem is thrown out of balance. By removing or reducing these invaders, native plants and animals can return and with them a healthy and functioning ecosystem.
In partnership with a variety of private and public agencies, we are creating resource plans that focus on how best to remove the invasives and restore the balance.
Birds, Birds Everywhere!
As we work to improve the health of the land and water and thus the food we produce, birds are playing a key role. You can think of birds as flying bio-indicators, measuring ecosystem health. The numbers and types of birds, as well as when they visit and nest, tell us much about the health of the land. To understand this dynamic we are undertaking ongoing surveys and bird counts, some open to the public. We are also beginning to band birds to learn more about their movements and how they use Pinello Ranch.
As Venetucci Farm and Pinello Ranch lie along a migration corridor, the number of birds expands dramatically in the spring and fall. This is an especially exciting time to visit. We offer guided birding hikes throughout the year, with more hikes offered in spring and fall. We also will be offering school groups the opportunity to take part in a new class: Ranching & Wildlife at Pinello Ranch.
This class will give students the chance to see birds being banded by scientists to learn more about what birds visit the farm. Students will learn about the journey of migration made by billions of birds each year. Students will also learn about how important farms and ranches can be in helping to conserve wildlife while producing food for local communities. Check out the most recent listing of Bird Species at Pinello Ranch.