"Riding along the Cevennes mountain road, you can hear the gurgling boiling of Laguiole vegetables,” penned French cyclist Paul Fournel on the promise of enjoying a meal of local produce after a bike ride.
“Around Beauzac, where the road goes above the Valley of the Loire, you can already smell the green lentils of Puy, done in Tournaire style.”
While Fournel refers to the European countryside, local cyclists will have an opportunity to mirror his experiences closer to home, through the upcoming Tour de Farms rides. Part of EAT LOCAL! Week, these excursions are jointly organized by Transition Colorado, Slow Food Boulder, the Denver Botanic Gardens and Edible Front Range magazine.
Transition Colorado is a statewide organization fostering community action and awareness to address the challenges presented by climate change and peak oil. Its EAT LOCAL! Week seeks to educate the public on the benefits of supporting local agriculture, and the rides are an avenue for getting the word out. Carol Carlson chairs the Boulder chapter of Slow Food USA, which works to enhance understanding around food and its relationship to the environment and community.
As a ride organizer, she says, “We hope to hold this every year, to bring awareness and education to the public about farms and the great options we have for buying local and organic produce.”
The first ride happens on Aug. 28 and consists of a roughly 15-mile loop beginning and ending at Lone Hawk Farm near Hygiene. The second outing is on Sept. 4 and follows a 20-mile round-trip route starting from Ollin Farms, located between Niwot and Longmont. The timing is ideal for these rides, says event organizer and Transition Colorado agricultural policy staffer Lauren Richardson.
“The end of August, it’s the climax of the growing season,” she says.
Each ride, capped at 50 cyclists, will mainly take place on paved surfaces, with the possibility of limited travel on greenway paths and dirt roads. The pace promises to be leisurely and appropriate for all fitness levels and bike types. Sherri O’Hara, a Bicycle Longmont board member who also works for electric bike purveyor Small Planet E Vehicles, says, “It’s a tour, not a race.”
The August ride begins at Lone Hawk Farm, which counts corn, tomatoes, zucchini and Roma green beans among its crops. The operation is unique in that it relies on solar power to provide the juice for much of its agricultural equipment. Richardson is impressed by the gear here, saying that the “electric farm machines are quite fantastic.” But this spot’s charms aren’t just technical.
“Lone Hawk is out of this world as a farm,” says Slow Food’s Carlson. “It’s beautiful out there.”
After Lone Hawk, riders will proceed to Aspen Moon Farm for a tour, followed by a visit to the Sol y Sombra Organic Farms, which features tomatoes and heirloom beans. Stonebridge Farm, an organic operation known for viticulture workshops for aspiring winemakers, is the next stop on this leisurely paced tour. A vineyard tour will be the highlight of this visit, followed by non-alcoholic refreshment, and then riders will return to Lone Hawk. Carlson says this destination’s Tuscan design motif and spacious yard makes it an ideal locale for a picnic. Cyclists will be able to test this hypothesis, as the ramble concludes with a European-inspired al fresco meal of salumi and cheeses from Cured, farm-picked tomatoes and cucumbers.
The Sept. 4 ride costs $20, and Richardson says the price “includes lunch, refreshments and dirt under your nails.” There will also be a limited number of electric bikes from Small Planet E Vehicles that can be reserved through the online registration process. The day kicks off at 8:30 a.m. with a farm tour at Ollin, a name that comes from the Aztec word for “transformation.” Noted for its farm dinners, Ollin also pursues a biological nutrient-dense farming model focusing on long-term soil sustainability. Richardson praises Ollin for producing “the most amazing heirloom tomatoes I’ve ever had.”
The second stop will be at Pachamama Organic farm, the offerings of which are familiar to local farmers’ market patrons, as well as their community-supported agriculture shareholders. A farm-prepared lunch awaits riders at the next destination, Lone Hawk Farm. Upon return to Ollin, riders can buy fresh produce to take home.
Ride planners are already contemplating the possibility of additional excursions, some of which would occur this fall. One idea is to organize an autumnal apple-themed ride that would include cider-pressing demonstrations and a chance for participants to pick their own fruit. Richardson hopes these tours will become a monthly event and suggests that one upcoming ride might consist of exploring Longmont-area urban farms in a way that is geared towards families.
On a similar note, O’Hara says one of the event’s goals relates to families.
“People are a generation removed from having a family farm to visit,” she says. “These rides present a chance to do that.”
Carlson adds, “Being out in the country, in a beautiful area, it gives you an opportunity to meet a farmer and see what they have to grow. It’s a deep way of grokking where food comes from.”
Richardson notes that these rides will help cyclists embrace a “slower way of life.” In a sentiment that scribe Fournel would appreciate, she says that the events allow one to enjoy local bounty without regret, as the rides provide an opportunity to “earn those calories.”
But Richardson also taps into the deeper value of the rides, saying, “It’s a celebration of what we produce here.”
Online registration and information for the Aug. 28 ride is available at the website of the Denver Botanic Gardens (www.botanicgardens.org), which is cosponsoring the event.
For the Sept. 4 ride, go to www.transitioncolorado.org.