A Culinary Ride of Local Farms and Food

A Culinary Ride of Local Farms and Food by Audrey Wiedemeier

How can learning about sustainable agriculture, local food providers, and responsible land use be made fun- and tasty? Take a bike tour of local farms and food! The Culinary Ride takes people by bicycle out to the farms, prairies, restaurants, and schools that are providing the healthy food and restoring ecosystems essential to sustaining a community’s well-being.  We believe that there is no better way to experience the beauty of Iowa, local farms, and food than by bicycle.

Iowa towns have grown from the surrounding rich agricultural history as the locales where farmers and those sustained by their efforts convened and shared the products of their work. Through the industrialization of farming and the globalization of food markets, this connection is easier to overlook and take for granted. The Culinary Ride is an experience organized to contextualize Iowa City within the surrounding agriculture and raise our awareness of people and businesses who place high value on local goods and supporting their local agricultural economy. We hope to help cultivate this appreciation for the fertility of Iowa soil and to promote responsible urban, residential, and rural land use, showing future generations the importance of communities who work together to be self sustaining.

The Culinary Ride is an event promoting mindful food culture. A unique feature of the Culinary Ride is that each year we change the route to showcase different farms and people practicing responsible land use. Each stop along the route is paired with local chefs and restaurants committed to locally sourced food. This year we showcased; 60 acres of restored prairie, a berry and vegetable farm, home gardens, a small town restaurant serving big time New Orleans cuisine, the future site of one of the only Midwest farmers attempting commercially raise organic hops, a local brewery, and a bee keeping and honey production operation . The bicycle friendly route is an easy escape just off the Dubuque St. Trail in Iowa City and North Liberty, to the rural countryside of Johnson and Iowa County.

There were two routes for participants to choose from. The Cherry-Tomato 25 mile paved route, and the Beet-it-Up 55 mile paved/gravel route. Both routes road together and Beet-it-Uper’s split off just after Northern Ridge Berry Farms. Even if one is new to biking or hasn’t ridden in a while, we try to make a route challenging yet doable to help people who might not otherwise come understand just how close we are to our local food growers, and how easy it can be to get around by bicycle. For those who traveled the Beet-it-Up route it was a chance to experience local food served-up in the wilderness of Iowa. The last stop was nestled in the Hawkeye Wildlife Management Area and after a day of riding people had the option of setting up camp for the night. The route officially ended near the Dubuque St. Trail, which offers a stress free bike home.

The Culinary Ride benefits the Iowa City Community School District Farm to School Chapter and Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County’s Youth Off-Road Riders. Farm to School works to connect cafeterias with local farmers in an effort to teach kids about real and healthy food. Youth Off Road Riders is a youth mountain biking team providing kids with coaching and camaraderie, teaching them their responsibility to the environment, and introduces them to new skills associated with being on a cycling team.

Sixty-five percent of Iowans are overweight. Six-five percent of trips one mile or less are made in cars. Is it a coincidence these numbers are the same? In addition to the benefit, food, and fun the Culinary Ride is a chance to demonstrate how easy it is to use bicycles as one’s major source of transportation. If it’s easy enough to get out to a farm in the country by bicycle, then short trips around town by bike are a breeze!

View more photos on our Picassa Page .

About Audrey

Audrey Rose WiedemeierAudrey Rose Wiedemeier
Audrey Rose Wiedemeier received her bachelors degree in International Studies with an emphasis in Global Health from the University of Iowa. Previously she has worked for the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, and interned at Washington Parks and People in Washington, DC. Serving as an AmeriCorps member at the Iowa City Bike Library allows her to continue encouraging and supporting people to use bicycles for transportation. She’s committed to learning more about bicycle transportation planning. Through Energy Corps she’ll be working to get more people riding, and helping to inform interested but concerned community members about bicycling as alternative form of transportation. Think globally, bike locally.

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