Slow Food Cycle Sunday marks 15 years 

Annual celebration of food, farms and cycling returns to Pemberton this Sunday

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DAVE STEERS - BACK TO THE LAND Although Slow Food Cycle Sunday has grown fivefold in its 15 years, its core aim remains the same as it ever was: to showcase the importance and vitality of Pemberton's farmland.
  • Photo by Dave Steers
  • BACK TO THE LAND Although Slow Food Cycle Sunday has grown fivefold in its 15 years, its core aim remains the same as it ever was: to showcase the importance and vitality of Pemberton's farmland.

"There are potatoes to eat and potatoes to look at and potatoes to talk about and potato equipment."

Anna Helmer, in case it wasn't clear, is big on potatoes. Fourth-generation farmers in North America's seed potato capital, the Helmers' 31-hectare property serves as the physical—if not spiritual—home base of the annual Slow Food Cycle Sunday, presented by Pemberton Valley Supermarket, a celebration of locally grown food, farmland and the simple pleasures of cycling.

"I can't help but think when you bike up this valley and smell the air and see the clean air and the abundant growth, wouldn't you want your food to come from here? It just seems like it's going to taste really good and be very healthy," said Helmer, who co-founded the event alongside local writer Lisa Richardson.

A 40-kilometre ride up Pemberton Meadows Road, Slow Food Cycle features more than a dozen farm stops along the way, where attendees can sample fresh, homemade eats and take home artisan-made crafts from around the corridor. Entering its 15th year, the event has grown from just a few hundred cyclists in its early days to now more than 2,500. That growth has led to more of a festival-like atmosphere, said organizer Carlee Cindric with Tourism Pemberton, but the underlying message remains the same now as it was in 2004: showcasing the importance of Spud Valley's fertile farmland.

"That is the underlying concept of the event. I think that kind of gets lost at times because people get caught up in the cosmetics of it, like, 'Oh yeah, I went here and had my gin-sickle from Pemberton Distillery, and then I was over here and had some tasty treats from Sugar Momma Pastries,' which is all great," Cindric said. "We're exposing people to local foods and treats and all the rest of it, but it's really meant to get people out to the farmland in Pemberton, and to see what farming looks and feels like, to meet a farmer and shake a farmer's hand, and really connect that consumer with the producer."

Part of the appeal of Slow Food Cycle—which, according to Cindric, is the largest event of its kind in B.C.—is its simplicity. There are no Michelin-starred chefs whipping up haute cuisine here; instead, cyclists stroll along at their own leisurely pace, taking in the sights and sounds, and enjoying the straightforward, hearty fare made from ingredients grown just steps away.

"It's a bike ride through farmland—and most of us are farmers, we're not chefs, so what we have to offer are dirty old potatoes," Helmer said with a laugh. "We put on a bit of a show on the third Sunday of August every year, but even if every single driveway was boarded up and closed shut, there's still a bike ride and there's still this beautiful air, the water, the scenery and the impression of abundant growth."

And while the food on offer is decidedly uncomplicated, it certainly doesn't sacrifice flavour in favour of simplicity. With 35 participating vendors from around the Sea to Sky, attendees can expect to try everything from all-natural, gourmet perogies from Good Mood Food, Pemberton potato fries and burgers from Grimm's Deli, fresh baked treats, a selection of local honey, maple syrup and other packaged goods, along with the bounty of produce grown by participating farms.

This year will also include a longer list of craft vendors, including paintings by local artists, feather art, and even a pop-up clothing boutique, Cindric said.

Slow Food Cycle is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 18. Participants should meet at the location of the old Pemberton Community Centre on Meadows Road, which will be closed to vehicle traffic (except, appropriately enough, to slow-moving farm vehicles) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Cyclists will share the road with vehicles between 9 and 10 a.m. and then after 3 p.m. The speed limit will be reduced to 30 km/h during those hours.

Tickets are $5, or $20 per family, up to six people. Children five and under are free. Register now at tourismpembertonbc.com/cycling/slow-food-cycle-sunday.

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