Time for a bucolic bike ride: Cycle to Farm tour brings cyclists to the fields

A Cycle to Farm cyclist prepares to depart on the farm tour. Photo by Don Talley, courtesy of Cycle To Farm

Area cyclists will have an opportunity to enjoy scenic rural roads and local farms in the annual Cycle to Farm bicycle tour.

The event, now in its fourth year, will take place on Saturday, July 18, and is organized by Velo Girl Rides in partnership with Ingles Markets and Black Mountain Parks and Greenways.  A portion of the proceeds from the tour will support the creation of more greenways.

The event will start and finish in Black Mountain. Organizers say the tour provides a safe riding experience that supports the participating farms by introducing a new clientele.  The tour is limited to 300 participants to ensure that the farms are not overwhelmed with riders.  The tour has sold out in its previous years.

Participating farms include Cloud 9, Hickory Nut Gap, Looking Glass Creamery, Rise Up Rooted and River Camp, Highlander Farm and The Lord’s Acre. The farmers will offer samples of tasty food to the cyclists, as well as their products for sale. A team of volunteers will pick up the cyclists’ purchases and have them waiting at the finish line.

“We look forward to the event every year because it is a well-executed ride that brings hundreds of bicyclists to our doorstep to experience our cheese shop and buy directly from us,” says Jennifer Perkins, cheesemaker and owner of Looking Glass Creamery.  “The event has a great energy, and there is a lot of camaraderie among the riders. Everyone seems to be having a good time.”

Cycle to Farm events use a route of about 62 miles (known as a “metric century” among cycling enthusiasts), visiting local farms about every 10-15 miles.

Tandem cyclists at Cycle to Farm. Photo by by Leah Elizabeth, courtesy of Cycle to Farm.
Tandem cyclists at Cycle to Farm. Photo by by Leah Elizabeth, courtesy of Cycle to Farm.

“It is challenging enough that we recommend you train for it,” says David Billstrom of Velo Girl Rides. “About 5,000 feet of climbing over 63 miles isn’t a casual bike ride — most riders will take about six hours, and seven hours isn’t unusual.”

Billstrom says that the event can bring the farms more revenue within a few hours than their best day at a tailgate market, and some farms report the tour is their best day all summer.

Susan Sides, garden manager and executive director of The Lord’s Acre, a farm that feeds residents in need in the Fairview community, says the tour benefits the local farming community through “face to face exposure with the farm and farmers.”

“[It’s a] sensory exposure to fresh small bites where the food was chosen specifically for the riders,” Sides says. “That’s what local food is about for all of us, and the riders will experience that firsthand. Being a nonprofit farm, it’s a privilege to have been invited. While we won’t be selling what we grow, we’re excited to share refreshment and the passion we have for growing food for those in greatest need.”

Past Cycle to Farm events have included cyclists from 15 different states with about half of the riders coming from outside the Asheville area, Billstrom says.  The event also boasts a rider mix that is close to evenly split between men and women, he adds.

Billstrom says that an extensive volunteer network will be on hand to ensure the safety of the riders.  He expects nearly 100 volunteers for the tour and points out that it takes more than a village to pull off an event on the scale of Cycle to Farm. He adds that the presence of Ingles as a presenting sponsor means additional support and exposure for local farms and additional greenways.

Once the tour finishes in Black Mountain, cyclists will enjoy a delicious farm-to-table meal at the “Fabulous After Party,” sourced from the farmers they visited during their ride.  Billstrom says the after-party is overtly designed to welcome all four groups — riders, volunteers, farmers and the riders’ families.

For more information, visit CycleToFarm.org.


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About Josh O'Conner
Josh O’Conner is an urban/land use planner with a passion for urban agriculture. He can be reached at @kalepiracy or @joshoconner on Twitter or e-mailed at josh.oconner@gmail.com.

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