Farm Cycle 2018
Iowa City Bike Library — Sunday, Sept. 16 at 8:30 a.m.
If the weekend forecast is accurate, this Sunday, Sept. 16, will be a perfect day for a late-summer bike ride. Conveniently, Iowa City Bike Library Director Audrey Wiedemeier has already coordinated the local bicycling and culinary event of the season, Farm Cycle — formerly known as RadTour. Through RadTour, Wiedemeier and a small team coordinated annual rides in several Midwestern cities, including Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. With increased responsibility as the library director, a role she began in June 2018, Wiedemeier has renamed and rebranded the event, which will serve as an annual fundraiser for the Bike Library. The library is currently searching for a long-term home, after being granted an extension on their current space at 700 S Dubuque St.
The shorter answer is: You should register and come on this ride. If it’s too expensive for you, let them know; there are volunteer opportunities and other ways to defray cost. No, the ride isn’t too hard. You’ll get a map and probably a cue sheet and the route is clearly marked. Bring water and wear a helmet. There are water refill stations at each farm stop. Bring a snack if you’re afraid you won’t get enough food, even though you probably will. Bring whatever intoxicant you prefer, if you prefer intoxicants (but no glass bottles) — I recommend Baron de Breban sparkling rosé, poured into a water bottle and kept cold. Bring a plate and an eating utensil, because the chefs won’t have them. And a napkin, if you use those. Really, that’s it.
But maybe you’re scared, because you’ve never ridden that far, or that far away, or ridden in the country, or ridden on gravel, or you just like to know what to expect. So. The long answer:
The act of cycling to a farm, winding through that vista; then walking on that earth, talking to that farmer; then eating the artfully cooked food that farmer raised while rooted to the same earth where that food grew; all that, served with area wine and the endorphine-fueled conviviality of group cycling: That is something I never did when I lived anywhere but Iowa. It is a perfect demonstration of how food systems and communities should operate. It is, ultimately, a living embodiment of the Bike Library’s mission to encourage cycling and foster community and of the missions of the farms and chefs who share their arts with us.
This year’s Farm Cycle will begin at the Iowa City Bike Library, with check-in starting at 8:30 a.m. After an energizing breakfast by New Pioneer Co-Op and Wake Up Iowa Coffee, riders will head west, departing at around 9:30 a.m. and biking about eight miles to the Johnson County Historic Poor Farm, home of Grow Johnson County and the Iowa Valley Global Food Project. Cyclists should expect to spend an hour or two touring these farms, enjoying live music and chatting with Farm Manager Jake Kundert, Environmental & Community Planner Vanessa Fixmer-Oraiz and Global Food Project representative Fatima Saeed, while enjoying noshes from Big Grove Solon and Blackstone.
From the Poor Farm, riders who’ve opted for the Cherry Tomato route ($25 student, $35 general) will meander back into town, riding a total of 14 miles. The rest of the crew will pedal on, heading to Walker Homestead and Muddy Miss Farms. This leg of the trip includes an optional B road, but it’s short and navigable on any type of bike (if you do have a cyclocross bike, though, this road is made for it). There’s another brief bit of hilly gravel just before Walker Homestead, where cyclists will sample wine from Bob & Kristy Walker’s grapevines while meandering the grounds at the Homestead and at neighboring Muddy Miss Farms, and then dine on Provender’s wood-oven delicacies, picked mere moments before.
Walker Homestead’s burgeoning agricultural project includes kunekune and Ossabaw pigs and Champagne d’Argent rabbits; a wine CSA; an upcoming event/education center, currently under construction; and direct partnerships with chef Chris Grebner and farmers Andrew Roers and Shanti Sellz. Though it’s only a few miles from downtown — a perfect bike ride, really — Walker Homestead’s vistas could be Florence or Provence, and the food and wine are sublime reflections of the land’s beauty.
More serious cyclists will then continue west for the Beet It Up route ($35 student, $50 general), traversing 20 miles of gravel peppered with some secret treats and stops, sponsored by Gravel Scouts and Big Grove Brewery. They’ll convene with the Kale Yeah riders (also $35 student, $50 general), who head back into town from Walker Homestead, at Big Grove Iowa City, host of the ride’s after party and home to more snacks for riders. In keeping with tradition, bring something to silkscreen, and you’ll go home with this year’s logo on your clothes. Included with registration is a coupon for a beer or other beverage at Big Grove, and the party ends at 5:30. Riders will complete passports, getting “stamps” at each farm and from each chef, and these completed passports will be entered in a drawing at the end of the ride.
Kids 12 and under are free. Ticket info and route maps available here.