After witnessing increasing farmland development across a number of American landscapes, Wren launched the Farm to Fork Fondo in 2015, a series of non-competitive events aimed at helping cyclists understand the importance of preserving rural farms and meandering country roads, which Wren sees as vital to riding routes, health, and local economies.
This year’s series includes four Fondos, where cyclists of all levels ride between 10 and 100 miles over the course of one day through bucolic countryside, stopping at various points along the way to sample tasty regional foods (oh, hello, fresh peaches and nectarines, deviled eggs with bacon, and homemade Amish root beer), meet the local farmers who produced the ingredients, and listen to live music. Riders also enjoy a pre-ride gourmet farm dinner and a post-ride farm-to-table barbecue (more on those below). The event is organized by Wren’s Vermont-based company, Wrenegade Sports.
Encouraging interactions between cyclists and the farmers is Wren’s way of putting a face to the landscape, so to speak. He hopes riding through farming communities will help people understand the importance of regional food systems and encourage them to support local farmers and preserve rural land. “These farms represent more than just gorgeous scenery,” Wren says. “Connected to every beautiful barn are families doing work that is vital to our way of life.”
Cyclists pass by beautiful farm landscapes during the Vermont Farm to Fork Fondo in mid-July. Marco Quezada / Farm to Fork Fondo
Cyclists rest at Pierson Farm in Otisville, NY, during the Farm to Fork Fondo in New York’s Hudson Valley. Marco Quezada / Farm to Fork Fondo
So far this year, the Farm to Fork Fondo event in New York’s Hudson Valley attracted more than 500 cyclists, and the Vermont ride attracted more than 400. Those looking to jump on the bandwagon, er, bike, to save local farms can still sign up to ride through Pennsylvania this weekend and Maine later this month.
More than $6,000 has been raised at the events through participant donations, sponsorship from New Holland Agriculture, local sponsors, and raffle ticket sales. The money is donated to local farm organizations and community groups, and Wrenegade expects to raise and donate more than $3,000 at the final two races.
The funds can be used for various purposes, from building a new farm stand or website to preserving land. Past donation recipients include the Orange County Land Trust in New York, which works on land preservation; the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link, which will use the funds for new farmer education programs; New York-based Pierson’s Farm, which will use money to expand their farm stand; and Vermont-based Liberty Hill Farm, which plans to use their share to restore a historic barn cupola.
Riders depart Pennings Farm in Warwick, NY, at the start of the Hudson Valley Farm to Fork Fondo. Bob Breese / Farm to Fork Fondo
The food-minded may find themselves motivated by the gourmet menu for farm-to-table dinner on the Friday night before each race begins. For this weekend’s ride in Pennsylvania, this includes Limestone Springs Preserve trout ceviche, smoked Piedmontese brisket, home-grown potatoes with colavita grana padana cheese and sundried tomato sauce, and Thistle Finch Distillery whiskey infused with strawberries and tarragon. The post-ride barbecue’s menu includes barbecue chicken, black bean tacos, pasta salad, watermelon, and peach cobbler, among other locally sourced cookout staples.
Farm to Fork Fondo events for summer 2017 are already lined up for the Hudson Valley and Vermont, and additional locations are in the works. One region under consideration is the Finger Lakes, because of the area’s strong focus on agritourism. “We’re looking for iconic farmland locations where we can do a good job of telling this story,” Wren says. “It’s all about supporting these farmers to help preserve this beautiful landscape.”
Registration for adults is $39.99 to $144.99 per person, depending on how many miles you plan to ride, which includes the food, the ride, and more. For more information and to register for this weekend’s race in Pennsylvania, visit here. For more information and to register for the Maine race on August 27 and 28, visit here.