Ride 4 Real Food
IMPORTANT CORRECTION/UPDATE (Sept. 7 at 9 p.m.):
Registration for the Ride4RealFood 2014 Country Rides is between 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. out at McVean Farm in Brampton, just north of Queen St (Hwy. 7)., at McVean and Dunegrass Way. These routes include a lower 65km loop route to Spirit Tree Estate Cidery in Caledon, which may be extended to 115 k route by adding an upper, hillier loop to Alton Mills Art Centre. Both routes include detailed route sheets, road signage, and real food snacks generously provided by Spirit Tree, West End Food Coop fruit farmers, and our intrepid bakers. Links to the Caledon Trailway will also be provided. Peel County is glorious in September, with fall wildflowers edging both country roads and the trailway.
City-to-Country Riders meet at Etienne Brule Park behind the Old Mill at 9:30 a.m.for the 35k route up the beautiful West Humber Bike Path to McVean Farm. All riders may register on-line at http://parc.donorpages.
Cost to register at the Farm next Sunday will be $60.
Interview by Sonya Allin
Photos by Monique Kelemen, Sonya Allin and Robin Sutherland
September 14th will see the 4th annual Ride4RealFood, a city-to-farm cycling event that enables low-income Torontonians to access healthy, locally grown food. We had a chance to speak with Brad Doner, the Event Coordinator for this year’s ride and Eugene Hennie, who’s both promoting the event and participating in the program it supports. Past rides have been great fun in support of better food security in Toronto; this year we hope more cyclists will take part! You can sign up to join, or donate, at this website.
What is the Ride4RealFood?
Brad: The ride is originally through the West End Food Co-op to raise money for the kitchen; at that time they were building the Co-op store. The 2014 focus is the Co-op Credit Program and the goal this year is to double the size of the program. So, we’re trying to get more riders.
Eugene (at left) working with other Co-op Credit Program participants in Greenest City’s Learning Garden in Parkdale. Photo by Monique Kelemen.
What is the Co-op Credit Program?
Eugene: The Co-op Credit Program is an alternative currency concept. It allows people on a fixed income, many who are associated with the Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre (PARC), to work in exchange for credit to purchase organic food and grain-fed meats. The credits can be used at the West End Food Co-op, the Sorauren Farmer’s Market and at Greenest City’s “Good Food” Market. Many participants do not otherwise have the purchasing power to buy local produce. The program is also connected with local farmers, and it ensures them a fair price for their products.
Harvest from Greenest City’s Learning Garden. Photo by Monique Kelemen.
As a beneficiary the Co-op Credit Program, I have earned credits doing retail work at the West End Food Co-op, as a Farmer’s Helper at the Sorauren Food Market, and as an Urban Gardener with Greenest City. Our Greenest City gardens donate a large portion of their crops to our local Food Bank. It’s a tremendous self-esteem boost to be able to give back to our community. And with earned Co-op Credits, I’ve been able to purchase healthy locally grown food, the bulk being spent on meats, poultry, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Over the past 16 months I have not had a need to use any Food Banks.
Eugene (center) working with other Co-op Credit Program participants in Greenest City’s Learning Garden in Parkdale.
Brad: A lot of people don’t realize that even working families sometimes need to use Food Banks. It’s not just street people who experience food insecurity; many people with jobs don’t make enough to cut it. Programs like the Co-op Credit Program help take people out of the Food Bank. And the program is growing, giving more people access to food. It’s a social justice issue and it’s a way to help people rebuild lives.
Why is the fundraiser a bike ride?
Brad: This point of the ride is to go out to a farm, to build connections to food. In a city, we’re detached from food. We don’t have any real connection to it; most people don’t know how to grow it or how it is grown. The ride shows people where farmland exists and how it’s being encroached upon by development. In order to support local food, we need to have these farms around.
Prior Rides4RealFood have been great fun in support of food security.
Where do you ride?
Brad: The ride begins at 10 and registration begins around 9.30. The long rides have to register early, like 7am. You register, have some coffee and cookies and there’s a bike stand so if you need a quick tune up you can get your bike tires pumped, or tighten your chain.
The ride runs through Etienne Brule Park, behind Old Mill Station, and out to McVean Farm in Brampton. The shortest ride is 35K, and there are country rides that are 65 and 115K. The country rides begin and end out at the farm. It’s a great ride; the park is beautiful. There are a couple of city roads but there are also some alternative paths that are shown on the website. There are a couple of rest stops as well where we’ll have fruit, coffee, and cookies donated by the Sorauren Market and the West End Food Co-op. It’s a Sunday morning ride, so traffic won’t be crazy. It’s a safe ride; we had kids ride it last year. And it’s an easy ride; you can take whatever pace you like … it’s not a race. For most people the ride takes a couple hours, maybe an hour and change.
At the farm, there’ll be entertainment and food, and there’s always beer and wine up there as well. And there are tours of the farm; you can go see the bee-keeping there, and meet new Canadian farmers supported by FarmStart. So when you get to the end of the ride, you can talk about food, and talk about where it’s made. And there is a free shuttle to get from the farm back to the subway, so you don’t have to ride back.
Eugene hopes to ride this year, too. Photo by Robin Sutherland.
Will you be riding this year?
Eugene: My heart has been encouraged to perhaps take on the 35k course this year. The setbacks are that I haven’t ridden a bike in over 25 years and my cardiovascular shape might not be up to it. I used to ride a little bit, but I became a limousine driver. And limousine drivers, in order to make a living, we have to drive a car … so bike riding was out. I haven’t really ridden a bike since then; I’m not sure if I still know how to. I’ll be using a bike from a friend of mine on the 14th, but it’s got a flat tire so I’m going to have to learn how to repair a flat tire. I’ll also do some practice cycling on the Lakeshore.
But if I can get enough sponsors, I will surely give the ride a shot; I’ll make it a goal to get it done!
Eugene Hennie has been a member of the Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre (PARC) since September of 2011. At PARC he’s received food, counselling and job training. He’s now a PARC ambassador; his role is to tell the community at large about PARC and its services. He also recruits and mentors participants in the Co-op Credit Program; he’s both benefited from and participated in this program for the last two years. A link to his gardening blog can be found here.
Brad Doner is an avid cyclist, an intern at the West End Food Co-op (WEFC) and at PARC, as well as the Event Coordinator for the 2014 Ride4RealFood.
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