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A slow cycle back to our roots

August bike ride to showcase Pemberton farms and slow food movement

Do you know where your food comes from? Two Pemberton residents are organizing an event to try to show people the answer to that question.

Anna Helmer and Lisa Richardson are organizing the Slow Food Cycle Sunday for Aug. 21 with the aim of showcasing Pemberton farms and showing people where their food really comes from. Richardson said that the main idea of the event is to help people, "…develop a sense of connection with the land where food is grown…"

Slow Food Cycle Sunday will be a free community bike ride down the Pemberton Valley visiting local farms. There will be opportunities to inspect and buy local produce and goods, as well as learn more about farmers in the Pemberton Valley.

"The idea is to showcase the local farmland up here and explain what’s going on because I think a lot of people are curious about it but unsure of what all those fields are doing," said Helmer.

The idea has met with good support from local farmers. They will set up stalls for the event to display their wares to the bike riders.

"The bottom line is to connect people with local farming and one way we’re going to do that is we’re going to have vendors on the side of the road," said Helmer. "There’s an organic garlic grower in the valley who’s going to set up and there are several bakers. There will be some blueberries and greens. Whatever’s in season on Aug. 21 will be out there…."

Helmer also said they’ve had a good response from possible participants. "We think it’s going to catch on pretty well. There’s been lots of buzz already. It just seems to hit a note with a lot of people. I’m really happy about that. It certainly hit a note with Lisa and I. As soon as we came up with the bare bones it was like, ‘Oh my God, this is wonderful! We have to do this!’"

Helmer and Richardson explained that bikers will ride up and down Pemberton Meadows Road at their own pace. The complete ride is 50 km in length and Helmer feels that although people need to be of a certain fitness level to make the ride, she thinks that it is still something that many should be able to accomplish.

"It can totally be done. You don’t need to be super fit to make 50 km in 6 hours. You can take it easy, stop for a cinnamon bun, stop for some nice spring water, some coffee, whatever," she explained. "You’re going to have a pretty good time, I reckon."

Pemberton has a long history as a farming community and Richardson feels that people should be more aware of that history and the continuing importance of farming in the valley.

"More and more tourists drive along the stretch of Pemberton Meadows Road, where so much of Pemberton’s pioneering and agricultural story is located, but they don’t really understand what they’re seeing," said Richardson. "Even some newer residents aren’t aware of the farming base here, of the history of Pemberton, or the significance of the Pemberton seed potato."

Richardson and Helmer plan to make this an annual event. Richardson said that they hope to "…essentially create a signature event for Pemberton." This year they are targeting primarily people within the region but they are hoping to build on the first event and attract people from out of town.

"The vision would be to close down Pemberton Meadows Road and have the bike ride, horse rides, and other events," Richardson explained, "like a festival."

Helmer agreed. "We’d like to see it evolve. We’d like it to become a major event. We’d like to have hundreds of people doing it."

Helmer and Richardson aren’t going to stop with the bike ride. They are producing a "green map" which will be available for the event and at the Visitor Information booth in Pemberton. It will display local crops, local history, and will also note important local geography. The goal is to give people more information about what they are seeing when they drive or bike past the farms.

On Monday the board of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District agreed to donate up to $1,000 in funds from Area C to help with the mapping project.

The two women also have plenty of ideas on how to grow the event. Some of these ideas include separate projects, like the green map, and may eventually include a documentary.

"We’d like to make a documentary about the Pemberton Valley and all the growing that goes on here," explained Helmer. "There’s huge history, it’s actually quite recent history. A lot of the people who lived without electricity are still here, alive and kicking. It’s all there. Right now it’s very vibrant history."

Helmer said of the possible rewards of the event: "It’s sort of the future of agriculture, I think – agritourism. It helps the farmers remember the value of what they are doing, which is really important, and it helps the people in the city to remember where it’s all coming from and why it is important not to promote development. For me that’s where it’s at."

For those who don’t think they are up to the ride, Helmer said they are in desperate need of volunteers. The number to call if you are interested in volunteering for the event is 604-966-8460.