Friends, fresh local food and biking – is there any better combination for a sunny spring Saturday in Williamstown? Last Saturday, Real Food Williams brought all of the above together for the first annual Local Farm Bike Tour. The 9 a.m. start time did not deter nearly 50 students from arriving on Paresky steps, bright-eyed and ready to ride. As part of their new Purple Bike Rentals, the Purple Bike Coalition (PBC) partnered with Real Food to donate bikes and helmets to cycling hopefuls who didn’t have a pair of wheels of their own. PBC leader and bike chain aficionado Ben Corwin ’15 also agreed to ride along to ensure the entire process rolled smoothly. After the PBC distributed bikes and the mastermind behind the tour, Talia Calnek-Sugin ’15, debriefed the group on safety, the gaggle of bikers started down Route 2. The sun was already high in the sky without a cloud in sight when they arrived at A-Frame Bakery. Three trays packed with muffins, scones and bread offered by the tiny family-owned bakery provided the perfect start. Once finished, they were back on the bikes and off to Sweetbrook Alpaca and Maple Syrup Farm.
Tucked away off an otherwise nondescript dirt road, Sweetbrook may be one of the most picturesque places in Williamstown. Think Pine Cobble minus the hiking, and you have this gem of an alpaca farm. Owner Pete Phelps described the workings of his family farm, which provides the College with maple syrup. His family has been living and working on the same plot of land for nine generations now, and Phelps’ dedication to the farm and the Williamstown community was clear. The farm has long participated in the local farmers’ market, and Phelps discussed exciting future plans to acquire cattle and build a dam for fishing the creek that borders his land. After checking out the alpacas and farm store, the group was back on the road, bound for Cricket Creek Farm.
At Cricket Creek, cheese maker and dairy enthusiast Cara warmly greeted the group. She directed a tour around the farm, proudly showing off the pigs, cows and chickens. Then, the group made its way inside for a cheese demonstration. For the demonstration, Cricket Creek offered delicacies such as bread, three types of cheese and whey freshly produced on the farm. Cara spoke enthusiastically about her switch from cheese selling with Whole Foods to her much-preferred cheese production at the farm. She also discussed Cricket Creek’s Community Supported Agriculture or CSA, which provides participants with fresh milk, cheese, eggs, whey and beef each week. Reluctant to leave, the group departed back to campus where they indulged in a fantastic local lunch that included delicious Cricket Creek cheese folded into omelets and skyr yogurt from Gammelgarden, another farm on the agenda for the afternoon tour.
Stomachs full of delectable local foods, the afternoon crowd gathered on the Paresky steps to begin a 17 mile tour into Vermont to visit Gammelgarden and Mighty Food Farms. Calnek-Sugin, bright eyed and visibly excited about the adventure, gave an overview of the bike route to the eager bikers. After helmets were distributed, the afternoon group hopped on their bikes and headed to the first destination, Gammelgarden – home of the skyr yogurt that has recently been added to the Eco Café menu.
The bikers cruised into Vermont, and after several miles the group diverged from the paved road and Calnek-Sugin led the group onto the unbeaten path. The bikers peddled into the Vermont hills where the petite Gammelgarden farm is nestled. Shortly after the bikers’ arrival, farmer Stina Kutzer opened the door to her home and showed the group around the creamery, presenting the farm’s equipment and introducing the group to the methods of culturing butter, buttermilk, skyr and fresh cheese. Real Food Williams concluded its visit in Kutzer’s cozy, family run farm with samples of maple skyr yogurt, butter and cheeses made on the farm accompanied by berries and bread produced by neighboring farmers.
The next stop was Mighty Food Farm, which lies less than a mile from Gammelgarden. The group was greeted by Lisa MacDougall, the head of Mighty Food Farm, who led the group to the green house that is currently housing tomatoes. As the group entered, she urged the bikers to taste the beets growing in the soil. As the bikers snacked on veggies straight from the ground, MacDougall explained how she got into organic farming and the process of maintaining an eco-friendly business.
The final bike ride was almost entirely downhill, a welcome relief after a long day of touring. The bikers cruised back with smiles on their faces, saying goodbyes as groups trickled off into different parts of Williamstown, making plans for similar trips in the future.