Aspen Times Weekly: Aspen Untucked with Barbara Platts
December 15, 2013
Jimmy Dula was indisputably confident that his future home was Aspen. That's why it was only a matter of days after receiving his final credit from the University of Texas that he packed one small suitcase and a backpack and transported himself via planes, trains and automobiles to the Roaring Fork Valley to establish his business, Colorado Soil Systems, in August 2012.
Now, when the 25-year-old explains what kind of business he owns and operates, most people get lost after the first sentence. Emulating biological functions in eco-systems and applying those functions to gardens and pasturelands with the help of fungi-rich soil is not a common occupation. However, it's the basis of Dula's trade, and it is a trade that he approaches with unwavering enthusiasm.
Many soil fertilizers used today are nitrogen concentrated and play a part in disturbing eco systems, according to Dula. Colorado Soil Systems offers several alternative landscape management practices that rejuvenate an environment from the ground up.
"We are trying to find alternatives to traditional agriculture and landscape practices," Dula said.
Dula first fell in love with soil and gained the inspiration to start his business shortly after he typed out three words into Google: "sustainable agricultural internship." The first result displayed an open position at Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute in Basalt. He applied, was accepted, and moved to the area for summer 2009.
"I had no idea what Aspen was," Dula said. "I had no idea there was this ski mecca with a lot of influence and wealth."
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After the summer, he returned to school and worked in a biology lab as well as a variety of other jobs pertaining to environmentally friendly soil practices. Three years later, he graduated and made a beeline back to the ski mecca to launch Colorado Soil Systems.
"I wanted to come back here because the valley has the population to support what I want to do with this business," Dula said. "It's a very progressive thinking valley and that helps."
Dula's passion for his work grabbed the attention of a seasoned Aspen local last spring. Martin Suthren, who has lived here for almost 30 years, loved the concept for Dula's business and was eager to get involved.
"I really wanted to start spending more time outside," Suthren said. "And it's an altruistic cause. I really think we are doing the right thing here."
Suthren is now Dula's business partner and heads the sales and marketing side of Colorado Soil Systems. He enjoys working with Dula and thinks he is somewhat of a rarity among young people in Aspen.
"He's not just after the fast cash," Suthren said. "He's planning ahead to live in Aspen for 10 or 20 years and this is how he wants to do it."
Dula can often be found landscaping yards or in his fungal culture lab at Aspen High School, but he also has many other jobs. He's currently employed with Aspen Skiing Co. as a part-time snowboard instructor, L'Hostaria, and at the Viceroy for events and banquets.
Colorado Soil Systems is now 15 months old and starting to pick up a loyal clientele. The young business owner is still confident in his choice to make Aspen his home. He hopes that building healthy landscapes in the Roaring Fork Valley will lead to even bigger sustainable projects in coming decades.
"We all love the mountains and nature, so we share this common value," Dula said. "What we're trying to do is protect it."
Barbara Platts, a local marketing professional, writes about the "mountain millennial culture" that she participates in every day. Reach her at email@example.com or follow her @barbaraplatts.
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