As I write this blog, Garden Variety Harvests produces vegetables on five different Roanoke City properties. They range in size from 800 square feet to over 1500 square feet of production space, and every plot is a little different. Some of our produce comes from community garden property, one plot is in a public park, and our backyard micro-farm at our home is directly across the street from another park. I’ll admit that some plots are further away from our home base in Garden City than I’d prefer. Several of the operations I’ve modeled the business after are much smaller geographically; some even run completely on pedal power, with farm workers towing trailers behind their electric-assist bicycles from plot to plot in a single neighborhood.
A farmer I really look up to in Montgomery County asked me a few months back whether I do farm tours open to the public. While I appreciate the ability of agro-tourism to educate foodies and consumers everywhere, I really considered it something exclusively for rural growers. But the more I’ve thought about it, this urban farm of mine is uniquely positioned to execute a tour of our fields if we look at alternative modes of transportation. Obviously it would take several days to walk the loop of GVH plots. And I’m not really keen to load a bunch of people up in a shuttle and bus them from stop to stop throughout town. But now that we have a relationship with local cyclist Michael Struble that has brought pedal-powered smoothies to the farmers market, we’ve found a way that we can offer an opportunity to tour the farm and benefit Michael’s epic Bike the US for MS ride at the same time!
On September 29th, as the southern summer is finally giving way to autumn, we’ll host the first ever Star City Urban Farm Bike Tour! The tour will not just visit GVH sites, but also two other operations in Roanoke who are working to prove that big-boy vegetable production is viable in an urban context. The farmers at those operations will lead a tour of their own properties and answer questions from the group, and riders will be given the chance to buy seasonal produce directly on farm. After the ride is complete, we’ll enjoy a catered meal from newly blossoming local food truck Wyrd Kitchen. All money raised from ticket sales will be donated toward Michael’s ride, and he’ll surely be leading our pack as we pedal around the city.
The ride should be manageable even for kids and beginners; the loop is 17 miles and relatively flat. We hope it will give a chance for people who are interested in local food to get out and explore great gardens in an active and engaging way. The group will be full of foodies, no doubt. And after sampling the recipe that Wyrd Kitchen has planned last night, I can promise your taste buds will not be disappointed.
If you don’t have a bike you’d like to ride on the tour, we can get you one to rent free of charge (thanks to RIDE Solutions)! So now that I’ve eliminated all the excuses you had for why you can’t ride with us, maybe you should check out this eventbrite link and get yourself a ticket! We’re limiting the ride to 25 people because several of the farm sites are very small and would have trouble accommodating many more people. So act fast, mark your calendar, get your ticket, and let’s go for a ride!