Stories From Sustainable Agriculture Business Professionals - Aspen Real Life

Stories From Sustainable Agriculture Business Professionals

Yesterday afternoon in the beautiful Aspen Kitchen restaurant, three locally established Sustainable Agriculture business presenters shared their stories on how they got started, where they are today, where they are heading, and what their ask is of our community.

Once again, the energy in the room was magnetic as attending guests listened intently to the history of these presenters, and what they are doing not only for our community, our local farmers, and our children, but how they are working extremely hard to bring back nutrient rich soil and educate people on growing sanely with biodynamic techniques.

Sustainable Settings

In 1997, on their return from seven months in China, Brook and Rose Le Van, affected by their travels and the subsequent culture shock upon their return to the US, initiated an experiment to create a setting in which people could live and learn to create a more sustainable future. The Le Van’s initially founded Sustainable Settings under the nonprofit umbrella of COMPASS, a sponsoring organization devoted to lifelong learning, social justice, responsibility and community. In 2001, Sustainable Settings established itself as an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and began a nation-wide search for a permanent home and headquarters for the organizations future research, demonstration and education activities. This search culminated with the identification of the Thompson Creek Ranch along the Crystal River in Pitkin County, Colorado. After a successful first phase of the “Our Sustainable Future” Land Campaign, the ranch was purchased in the Spring of 2003 with the generous support of Adam Lewis, Peter B. Lewis, and our board of directors.

Sustainable Settings was formed in order to create a shared vision of a sustainable and desirable society, one that can provide permanent prosperity within the biophysical constraints of the real world, in a way that is equitable to all of humanity, other species, and future generations. Sustainable Settings brings together many disciplines to create a whole systems approach and setting conducive to:

  • Intelligently designing, building and operating sustainable development
  • Experimenting with long-term solution for food, herb and fiber production
  • Anchoring our experiential teaching and learning in the surrounding ecosystem
  • Investigating how we can incorporate art and aesthetics into our daily lives, and
  • Building a more cooperative and just society

Guest presenter, Brook LeVan, is an artist, rancher, alchemist, and a co-founder and executive director of Sustainable Settings, a Demeter Certified Biodynamic working ranch and Whole Systems Learning Center featuring a raw dairy, vegetable and herb CSA, Run-on-the-sun green design and built infrastructure, managing 244-acres in the Rocky Mountains near Carbondale, Colorado.

He is also Co-Founder of Biodynamic Source devoted to healing the earth through utilizing homeopathic therapies, and he has co-founded Biodynamic Botanicals devoted to the research, education and production of high quality medicinal plants to serve the burgeoning herbal apothecary market. In Mid–Feburary 2017 Barclay Dodge, Chef /Owner of BOSQ restaurant featured Sustainable Settings’ Demeter Certified Biodynamic dairy cow beef, milk, cream, butter, eggs, vegetables, herbs and hay for a weekly menu special. As Barclay touched upon in our last event, “The foods Sustainable Settings are producing have flavor profiles that are untouchable.  No other local farm or what any purveyor can bring me has this extraordinary quality and depth of flavor. With such products we are able to heavily focus on our techniques and creativity while letting the products do what they do best, taste amazing from inside out!”


The Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute (CRMPI) is a 501(c)(3) sustainable agricultural education center where ecological gardening, edible landscaping, market farming, forest gardening, horticultural and sustainability skills, and greenhouse design and management have been taught since 1987. CRMPI empowers individuals and communities to become healthy and resilient through sustainable cultivation of abundant foods and natural resources.  By providing workshops, courses, internships and a demonstration site, CRMPI has taught over 3,000 students/interns from around the world to practice sustainable living through permaculture.  It also provides tours and field trips to the public, giving many insights to the value of permaculture in food sustainability and security.

CRMPI is one of the oldest continually operating permaculture facilities in the United States – and they are continuing to break new ground.

Guest speaker, Jerome Osentowski is the Founder and Director of CRMPI. A forager and permaculturist with roots in rural Nebraska, Jerome Osentowski lives in a passive solar home he built at 7200 feet above Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley. Director and founder of Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute and a permaculture designer for thirty years, he has built five greenhouses for himself and scores of others for private clients and public schools in the Rockies and beyond. He makes his living from an intensively cultivated one acre of indoor and outdoor forest garden and plant nursery, which he uses as a backdrop for intensive permaculture and greenhouse design courses. Among his accomplishments is hosting the longest-running Permaculture Design Course in the world, now at twenty-nine years running. Jerome and his business partner and co-author, Michael Thompson, have also been instrumental in identifying, conserving, and propagating heritage fruit trees that have survived and borne crops for over a century in the harsh environment of the Roaring Fork Valley. Jerome’s explorations of sustainable systems and his travels for development projects have taken him to Baja, Nicaragua, Patagonia, Finland, Australia, and the Caribbean.


Experience hands-on demonstration site tours of mature forest gardens and pioneering passive-solar greenhouses at a 7,200′ altitude in Basalt, CO.

Sample tropical – yes, tropical! – fruits from our on-site edible landscaping nursery. Chat with founder and director Jerome Osentowski and connect with our faculty and grads,  some of whom are also recognized permaculture leaders.

Aspen Tree/The Farm Collaborative Aspen

A family-led 501(c)3 nonprofit (tax id 26-3468420) at the heart of the Roaring Fork Valley empowering youth and building community.

Eden Vardy and his wife, River Morgan, founded Aspen TREE in 2008 to shift the negative tone and guilt-driven action that was pervading the environmental movement, and to provide tools for our community and youth to make it fun to care for our planet and food source.

They moved to their current “Farm Park” headquarters at Cozy Point Ranch in 2011, a lively edible landscape that showcases cutting edge methods of eco-agriculture and implements a pioneering a vision for public lands nationwide.

Eden Vardy is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of Aspen Tree, and the Founder and Executive Director of The Farm Collaborative. Passionate about leaving the world better for future generations, Eden is dedicated to advancing and curating environmental solutions, namely around agriculture. Aspen Tree is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that connects children and the community to nature and their food system, and solves global climate challenges through local food production. Aspen TREE just celebrated its 10th annual Farm to Table FREE Community Meal that served 1,500 seated guests with 100% locally grown food in Aspen, and was just awarded a 20 year lease by the City of Aspen Government at Cozy Point Ranch, where they are building a state of the art Farm to Community education, incubation, and resource center. Eden is also the managing director of the 2forks Club (that makes 0% interest loans to community farmers and local food entrepreneurs); a permaculture professor for Colorado Mountain College; an avid percussionist; and a proud husband and father.

Check out their summer camps and internships.

Moderated by Stephanie Syson

Moderator, Stephanie Syson, is the Co-Founder of Dynamic Roots and Biodynamic Botanicals. Stephanie’s hands and heart are in the dirt, cultivating and experiencing the botanicals that create vitality and wellness. She is the lead grower of herbs through her Demeter Certified company Biodynamic Botanicals, where she and her partners are setting the standard for high quality, biodynamically grown medicinals. Stephanie has been researching and practicing various forms of sustainable farming across the United States and Latin America since 2002 and has been working in the herbal product industry since 2006. She is active in her community with a passion for assisting government in the organic management of public lands as well as helping to re-educate the public as to the ecological and health benefits of so called “weeds”. She is a Certified Permaculture Designer, an educator in the fields of Greenhouse Management, Permaculture, Seed Saving and Herbalism. Stephanie lectures across the United States to groups of all ages on topics such as Food & Medicine in the Commons, Seed Saving Libraries and Culinary and Medicinal Herb Growing. She is committed to community service through education and demonstration of herbal self-care and sustainable farming practices through her monthly radio show Living Permaculture Show on public radio KDNK, her public access TV show Grow Up and her work with the Basalt Food Park.

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