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By Murat Oztaskin | June 28, 2017 | Lifestyle
With Aspen TREE, environmentalist Eden Vardy brings the focus back to the land.
A TREE grows in Aspen: In addition to tried-and-true perennials like herbs and fruit trees, Aspen TREE (whose acronym stands for “together regenerating the environment through education”) also produces eggs, milk, and other animal products, as well as greens, vegetables, and even, in its tropical greenhouse, bananas, lychees, and heirloom tomatoes, says Executive Director Eden Vardy.
“The interactions that take place in gardens are undeniably good for community,” says Eden Vardy. “The desire to share with neighbors is almost a byproduct of gardening.” It’s this communal mentality and a respect for the land that he aims to share at Aspen TREE, the educational “farm park” he founded with his wife, River, on the outskirts of Woody Creek in 2008. Born in Israel but raised in the valley, Vardy, now 31, studied food systems and eco-social design in college, all the while traveling—in Thailand, Uganda, Laos, China, and Mexico—to learn the ways that “more-traditional cultures” maintain “a healthy relationship to the land.”
Now he’s teaching those very same lessons to Aspen’s next generation. Eschewing guilt-based rhetoric, Aspen TREE’s educational programs favor a focus on solutions, Vardy explains, such as showing kids how many seeds they can plant with the water they save by washing their hands more efficiently. The nonprofit also leads by example, running Farm Park at Cozy Point Ranch, a public “natural landscape where everything’s edible,” says Vardy.
It’s a paragon of sustainability, with systems designed to “eliminate the concept of waste altogether.” This kind of connection to the land is being reflected throughout the valley’s lush public and private gardens, including the edible garden in front of City Hall and the expanded Aspen Community Garden. But for all that, says Vardy, it still comes down to a simple truth: “A garden is a direct intervention point with nature.”
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF NOGA VARDY (GREENHOUSE); COURTESY OF CHELSEA GILMORE (VARDY)