Like the fields the event showcases, the second annual Slow Food Cycle Sunday is really beginning to take root and spread its leaves.
The one-day event has grown to festival proportions this year with the addition of farm dinners, a kid’s pedal parade, craft fair and after parties, leading to the Back to the Land Weekend – a showcase of Pemberton agriculture.
The field-to-fork celebration has been extended over a weekend, Saturday, Aug. 19 to Sunday, Aug. 20 throughout the Pemberton Valley.
"The festival feeling of it will be bigger," said organizer Lisa Richardson. "There is a lot of enthusiasm from the farming community. More and more people are getting involved."
The farm love-in centres around the Slow Food Cycle Sunday event Aug. 20 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. when cyclists explore the farmlands of Pemberton Meadows and meet local growers, sample fresh-from-the-earth produce and partake in the culinary talents of local chefs.
The 50-kilometre bike ride connects adventurers to more than a dozen farms and farmers as well as incredible vista views of the Pemberton Valley – and best of all, with all that exercise you can eat as much as you like.
You don’t need to be Lance Armstrong to follow the route. The terrain is relatively flat and you can cycle for as long or short as you like. There are no need-to-be-here-at-this-time requirements. No man with a stopwatch clocking your speed. The point of this jaunt through the country is to slow down, smell the fresh farm air and get back to the roots of where your food comes from.
Brush the dirt from a carrot. Learn about how to prepare a purple sun choke. Taste the difference an organic yellow string bean makes to the usual fare.
Get down and dirty, right where your food should be.
Instead of food traveling 2,500 kilometres of highway to packagers then distributors and finally consumers, the event puts visitors directly in touch with the food producers themselves. Based on the Slow Food Movement practices, the event aims to educate people about where food comes from, as well the incredible bounty Pemberton farms wield.
"There are so many middle men," Richardson said of the traditional grocery store route, adding people’s growing concerns with epidemics such as Avian flu and mad cow disease have increased awareness about food crises and the benefits of fresh from the farm products.
"We have no idea what is going on and no accountability, so if we can meet people and eliminate the 10 steps in that chain of getting our food, I think we are reconnecting to something honest, pure and authentic."
The cycle is self-guided and propelled so no registration is required. Show up at the Pemberton Community Centre anytime after 9 a.m. to pick up a map featuring the participating farms. Catch the event bus from the main bus loop in Whistler at 9:35 a.m. for $20 return.
Also on the Sunday, Slow Food Cycle presents a free craft workshop for kids from 3 to 6 p.m. followed by a mini-pedal parade at 6:30 p.m. at the community centre. Pony Espresso hosts after party celebrations in the evening.
Leading up to the Slow Food Cycle on the Saturday night are two farmer’s field-to-plate dinners. The set menu dinners formally showcase farm produce with award-winning chefs at the helm. Chef Andrew Springett of the Wickaninnish Inn will exercise his alchemy at Helmers Organic Farms. Chef Vincent Stufano of the Fairmont Chateau will host a winemaker’s dinner at North Arm Farm. Dinners are $125. Call 604-894-5379 for the North Arm dinner and 604-894-6618 for the Helmer dinner (only four tickets left).
During the afternoon, Feast of Fields turns acres of farm lands into a wandering picnic with plenty to savour. Creations from B.C.’s award-winning chefs, farmers, food artisans, vintners and brewers will be on hand Saturday, Aug. 19 from 1 to 5 p.m. at North Arm Farm. Tickets are $75 and are available at the IGA and The Grocery Store in Whistler, North Arm Farm and Pemberton Valley Supermarket in Pemberton, and the Howe Sound Inn in Squamish.
For more information, visit www.slowfoodcyclesunday.com.