Truthfully the number of varieties GVH will grow next year should go down if I’m doing my job right. Many of my farming peers say to experiment with no more than 20% new varieties from year to year, and I’d like to abide by that. And I have to be a bit judicial when it comes to cutting items from the roster altogether. Beets and beans, for example, are on the chopping block as of today. Speak now, or forever hold your peace!Read more
The (hopefully first annual) Star City Urban Farm Bike Tour is just a couple weeks away! Tickets are moving quickly and there is a limited number of slots, so let me take this opportunity to encourage you to get signed up now if you want to ride! I’ll probably encourage you again a time or two before this blog’s over.
Let’s ride through the details of the tour to give everyone an idea of what to expect. The route can be found at this link, and at just under 17 miles, our ride time should be around two hours. We have six stops on the tour, four of which are Garden Variety Harvests operations. The GVH plots are backyards, community garden, and city park property and they focus on high-rotation annual vegetables like lettuces, herbs, and baby root veggies. Most garden beds are turned over at least twice per season, which means we’re planting and harvesting something every week of spring, summer, and fall. For almost a year, GVH has been a no-till operation, and I look forward to explaining how beautiful salads can be grown without the use of a tiller!
We’ll also be visiting the Garden City Farmacy, a new take on community gardening with emphasis on community. Participants in this garden share in the harvest according to the amount of work they put in throughout the season. The Farmacy has a small flock of laying hens, cultivates annual vegetables, and aspires to grow into food forestry on their four urban acres just inside the city limits.
The other farm we’ll visit is the Lick Run Farm in the Melrose-Rugby neighborhood. Farmer Rick Williams has been working this land for several years with a focus on permaculture principles including cover cropping and green manures. Lick Run seeks to be a beacon for sustainability and nutritious food in a neighborhood with great need to that end. The original house on the property is currently under renovation to be a community space for a variety of meetings and gatherings.
In addition to the participating farms, we have a few partners without whom this type of an event wouldn’t be possible. Our caterer, Wyrd Kitchen and Elder Medicine Apothecary is a new venture based here in Roanoke. The brainchild of culinary wizard and sentient yogi Sarah Bowles, this mobile food business will focus on environmental sustainability, local sourcing, and food as medicine. The trailer and all the appliances therein are powered by a self-contained solar system, and food is cooked on or in a state-of-the-art pellet oven! We are beyond excited for the dinner that awaits us at the end of this ride!
The Roanoke Community Garden Association has been a strong partner for GVH from the very beginning, offering opportunities to grow food in their gardens and to plug into the local gardening community by teaching classes and leading volunteer efforts. RCGA will meet us at one of the stops with refreshments and give a tour of one of their gardens. They operate gardens throughout the city, so if you’re looking for a place to put down roots of your own, reach out and get set to grow for next year!
Bike rentals will be facilitated by Bike Share by Ride Solutions. With pick-up and drop-off locations throughout Roanoke City, these cruisers are the premier bike rental program in town. They’ve agreed to allow us to rent bikes to our riders who don’t have an adequate bike for the tour, and we’ve already gotten a few riders set up for their rental. We’re so glad Roanoke has this sort of mobility option available, and we’re excited to offer this choice to tour riders.
We want to make sure that we don’t leave anybody behind along the way, so we’ve partnered with Downshift to provide a trail car to bring up the rear of our group. They’ll drive a van full of snacks and water, and tote a bike rack just in case we have any mechanical difficulties in the fleet. Sporting a full cafe menu with great coffee drinks and refreshing beers, Downshift is the coolest bike shop in town! Check out their Saturday morning rooftop yoga sessions!
I don’t fancy myself an event planner or community organizer; putting together this tour has involved more planning and coordinating than any bed of arugula I’ve ever planted. I appreciate so much the people and organizations who have been willing to play a part in this tour; it really wouldn’t be happening without the help of everyone listed and linked in this blog. The last partner I’d like to highlight is the charity to which all proceeds will go: Bike the US for MS. Based in Blacksburg, this non-profit raises money for research toward a cure for MS, as well as assisting families dealing with the difficulties of Multiple Sclerosis. I just love the model in which they operate: raising money for epic bike rides, doing service projects along the way, and using profits to benefit people navigating the consequences of this debilitating ailment. Michael Struble is the cyclist we’re supporting, and he’s gearing up for a pretty epic ride next year.
So that’s the whole kit and kabootle: where we’re going, who we’re meeting, and who we’re helping. If you want to join us on this jaunt about the city, tickets are available on eventbrite. If you have said “going” on Facebook, but not actually bought a ticket, please get your ticket! The tour is likely to sell out, so don’t get caught on the outside looking in!