3rd annual Farm Bike Tour clicks Food Week into gear

You may have seen the Food Week posters strewn about your entry stairwell, class hallways and the Paresky Center. In honor of Food Day, a nationwide annual celebration and movement for healthy and sustainable food, the campus is flooded with the splendor of local, organic, humanely-raised goods. A whole week dedicated to food is certainly a college student’s dream. But beyond the meals, groups including the Zilkha Center, the Queer Student Union and Real Food Williams have collaborated to present events ranging from guest speakers and discussions to film screenings and the Farm Bike Tour.

After specifically designing my class schedule so that I would never have to pull myself together earlier than 9 a.m., my screeching alarm on a gloomy 7:45 a.m. Sunday morning was definitely a foreign and unwelcomed visitor, but I left the warmth of my bed and headed off to Williams College’s Third Annual Bike Tour.

Organized by members of the student-run club Real Foods, the Bike Tour was advertised across campus as a completely “‘doable’ beginner level ride to two or three local farms” and I, like many other College students, looked forward to smelling the fresh air, enjoying the beautiful fall colors and snagging a bit of free food in the process. After borrowing a bike from the Purple Bike Coalition, I set off to meet the group in front of Paresky just in time to head off to our first stop, A-Frame Bakery.

As someone who has consciously limited her physical activity to running to and from classes, I was a bit nervous about biking being our sole form of transportation. With a light drizzle ahead of us and a breeze that made me regret not bringing gloves, the weather was less than ideal for the event. But the group’s lively spirit, along with the promise of more tasty treats ahead, kept me pedaling forward with the group along Route 2.

After a short trip down, we all gathered at picnic tables in front of A-Frame Bakery and were met with a selection of baked goods. The group collectively breathed a sigh of relief as we warmed our bodies with caffeine and delicious pastries. Four blueberry ginger cake slices later, a treat I would definitely recommend, we were off once again.

The second stop on the farm bike express was Sweetbrook Farm. We were greeted by Dave Larabee, maple farmer and alpaca caretaker extraordinaire, who started Sweetbrook Farm with his wife and taught himself the art of maple farming. Nestled by the surrounding mountains and open plains of the Northern Berkshires, Sweetbrook is home to a growing family of alpacas and thousands of maple trees that drive their sugar house. As Larabee walked us through the secrets of his trade, we were escorted to the stalls that housed a herd of lovely woolly alpacas. While he gave us a rundown on the various products produced from alpaca wool, I could not contain my excitement for being so close to those fuzzy and uniquely “Snapchat-able” creatures.

We eventually left Larabee and the alpacas behind and headed toward Cricket Creek Farm, where not only did we tour the dairy facilities, admire young calves and watch small piglets prance in mud, but were treated to an assortment of their house cheese fermented in their trusty cheese cave.

After an hour or so of reveling in potent cheeses and the company of adorable baby animals, it was time to head back to campus. With warm omelets and tea awaiting me at Paresky as my sole motivation, we headed down a shortcut that was fortunately all downhill (a gift after the miles of bike riding). Everyone biked back at their own pace, bellies full of the day’s culinary delights. Following the biker in front of me for guidance, I took the time to finally take in the view. After having spent a majority of my commute staring down at the gravel and bike pedals for balance, the shock of simply looking up made me smile because for that one solid moment, there was no omelet craving or wind chills or even leg fatigue; I was just enjoying the ride.

“It was an all around awesome experience! Biking was fun, the farmers were really insightful, and the animals were cute and weird. Williamstown is also beautiful in the fall, so it was great to get to explore it with everyone,” said biker chick and real food enthusiast Alex Ting ’15.

By the end of the day, I was more than exhausted, but also proud of myself for spending the morning biking, and satisfied by the variety of meals and local produce I got to try along the way. Moreover, I was happy I got a new perspective of the Berkshires and stepped out of the purple bubble even if for just one moment.