Cycle to Farm: Combining Fitness and Local Food

For cyclists in the Upstate, there is no shortage of organized rides throughout the year—many of them longstanding and popular, benefiting local charities or national causes. But this year there’s a new ride in the mix, and it’s different from other rides. Cycle to Farm is a metric century ride (62 miles) that takes riders to local farms, allowing them to get to know some of the people who produce food in our area.

With the rise of the popular local food movement, Cycle to Farm is at the intersection of fitness and food awareness. Organized by Velo Girl Rides, the first Cycle to Farm was in Black Mountain, NC, home of Velo Girl owner Jennifer Bilstrom. Her inspiration for combining cycling and local farms came when she realized she was riding past some of the same farms she saw at her local tailgate market. “I had been planning rides for years, and it hit me that this could work. I pitched it to the farmers, not knowing how they would react, and they loved the idea.”

Velo Girl had just added a second Cycle to Farm ride in Sandy Mush, to the northwest of Asheville, when Bilstrom was contacted by Ashton Gottschall, a senior at USC-Upstate. Gottschall was in Dr. Abe Goldberg’s Public Administration course in the fall of 2012, for which Goldberg had teamed up with Ten at the Top to create a culminating community vibrancy project: Students were tasked with identifying and conducting research on projects that successfully added to the quality of life offered in communities across the country. Interested in something fitness-related, Gottschall chose Cycle to Farm for his project.

After the student presentations of their projects, Cycle to Farm was one of the represented organizations selected to come and present at a Ten at the Top forum. Bilstrom says, “We had already added Sandy Mush at that point, which was kind of an experiment for us, to see how it would be to run two separate events. Speaking at Ten at the Top encouraged us to look for more communities. That’s how LiveWell learned about us.”

Cycle to Farm and Velo Girl are “all about local economic development,” Bilstrom says, so in bringing the ride out of their own community to here in the Upstate, the aim is for the local area where the ride takes place to benefit. With that in mind, profits from the event go to support healthy living via LiveWell Greenville.

The Ride and the Farms

The ride itself is on June 14, and it will start and end at Greenbrier Farms in Easley, traveling in a loop that includes visits to Hagood Mill, Serenity Farm (part of Mill Village Farms), and Double Blessing Farm/Red Clay Soap.

The route is described as flat to rolling, with an estimated elevation gain of 3,500 feet, almost exclusively on rural farm roads (with a short stretch on the Swamp Rabbit trail), and to keep the ride safe, the ride is limited to no more than 300 riders.

Free coffee and snack will be provided at the beginning of the ride, along with the services of a bike mechanic and yoga for riders. The farm-to-table meal at the after party at Greenbrier Farms is included in the price of the ride, and there will also be musical entertainment and beer for purchase from New Belgium.

Riders can sample the farmers’ wares at the stops and make purchases, and Velo Girl will come behind them to pick up their purchases, which will be waiting for them at the finish.

In addition to this being the first year Cycle to Farm offers a ride outside of the Asheville area (they have another scheduled for Chapel Hill, NC), the Greenville ride represents other firsts for Cycle to Farm: It’s the first time one of the farms has hosted the after party, the first time a mill has been included (grits and cornmeal from Hagood Mill), and the first time locally made goats-milk soap will be offered.

You can register for the ride here or find out about volunteering opportunities here, or for more information on this and other rides, visit the Cycle to Farm web site. Also, be sure to like their page on Facebook!

Sharon Purvis is a freelance writer and editor who makes her home with her husband in Duncan, South Carolina. You can find more of her work at SharonPurvisWrites.com.