The Ride4RealFood: Sonya’s Perspective
by Sonya Allin
This Sunday, September 14, 2014, I rode with more than 60 other cyclists in the Ride4RealFood, a fundraising event in support of better food security in Toronto and protection of the local ecosystem that feeds us. This benefactor of this year’s ride was the Coop Credit Program, which allows low-income Torontonians to earn healthy, local food “credits” by means of food security work in the city. The program is a partnership between West End Food Coop, Greenest City and the Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre (PARC); it supports work placements for PARC members at the Coop Store, the Sorauren Farmers’ Market and community gardens around Parkdale.
Participants in the Ride4RealFood cycled several routes focused around FarmStart’s amazing incubator for urban agriculture called McVean Farm. McVean is a beautiful, 45-acre farm where new Canadian farmers from around the world learn to work the local land and to establish innovative local farming enterprises of their own. Of the R4RF participants, about 15 left from McVean Farm and headed north and west for rides around the country to explore farming territory. Others, myself included, cycled from Toronto up the Humber River through Claireville Conservation Area and then to McVean.
My own ride not only opened my eyes to McVean Farm and FarmStart’s transformative work, but to the beauty of Etienne Brule Park. I was constantly stopping to take photos of birds and trees, which made me perhaps the slowest and most distractible participant on the City-to-Farm leg of the R4RF trip.
Crossing paths with fellow rider Eugene Hennie helped return my attention to the overall goal of R4RF, however. Eugene’s a Coop Credit organizer and recipient, a former limousine driver and a PARC ambassador. Prior to his participation in the Ride4RealFood, Eugene had not ridden a bike for more than 20 years. In the weeks leading up to the event, he’d been rediscovering his cycling mojo, tirelessly advertising the event all around town and had solicited dozens of sponsors. He raised more than $2500 by pounding the pavement with his message and was one of the ride’s top fundraisers.
But, when I found him on the bike path, his bike had a flat!
Thanks to the combined efforts of our capable and generous fellow riders, Eugene’s cycling adventure managed to continue despite adversity. After a bicycle swap at the final rest stop, Eugene completed the ride to McVean Farm with the rest of us, where music, festivities, and fantastic local food were waiting for us all.
The target of this year’s ride was to raise $40,000 so as to enable more people like Eugene to benefit from Coop Credit Program next year. The ride is very close to this target! The target can still be achieved with just a few additional donations. If you’d like to contribute in support of Eugene’s epic ride specifically, please click here.
“Ride4RealFood creates a window into our current food system, both the failures and the reasons for hope. Coop Cred is an ingenious solution to our current failure as a city to ensure that local food is accessible to everyone and that those who grow food make a living wage. McVean Farm and Ride partner FarmStart offer a reason to hope that we can reconfigure the system. McVean Farm is a corner of the local food system where transformative change is happening, not just for Eugene, but for all of us, should we care to notice. And that's what the Ride and the Picnic do: offer opportunities to notice.” ~ Robin Buyers, Ride4RealFood Organizer
The Ride4RealFood: Eugene’s Perspective
by Eugene Hennie
Have you ever had two flat tires on a 35-kilometre ride? Well I experienced that on Sunday September 14th on our annual Ride4RealFood fundraiser. My ride began at 10 am at the Old Mill subway station, taking us through Etienne Brule Park on the picturesque Humber Valley bike trail where the wonders of nature are displayed within the confines of our great city: lush vegetation, wild geese, laid back ducks, heron, squirrels and various small waterfalls. The feeling of serenity was truly within my heart as we advanced toward our finish line which was McVean farm in Brampton where a barbeque lunch awaited us.
I had not ridden a bike in over twenty five years, was totally out of shape, and I mentioned to a friend in August that our fundraiser was coming up. My friend then gave me an old bike that had been sitting in his garage for years. I was now committed because I could not say I had no bike. The saying “once you know how to ride a bike you never forget” really was true. I was slightly wobbly the first few minutes and the first four blocks felt like I had just run a marathon. With just five weeks to train there was truly doubt about my ability to finish the bikeathon.
One third of the journey now in the books I heard a sound like a water bottle falling from the bike. Reality hit me like a brick across the head: the back tire had just blown and I was at the back of the peloton feeling helpless and all alone! But I had perseverance, and hope. A few minutes after the mishap a fellow participant (Cynthia) came; she had the emergency number to our road crew. Distress gave way to friendship, and a SOS was put out. With the aid of Google maps we were able to send a location where the road crew could meet us. It only entailed about a kilometre walk on my part. While waiting for the road crew, two families with three children and Cadillac of a bike with tools and patches to fix a bike came along.
Dirk (the father) quickly sized up the situation and in no time the flat was fixed. Cancelling the SOS call to the road crew (Geoff and Ruben), we were off again. However, one kilometre later that same sound occurred (pow!) from the same back wheel. Dirk came to the rescue again. His bike was equipped like a tow truck and had a seat where his two young sons could piggyback on his bike. He removed his son’s bike from his bike and hooked up mine. The youngest now rode his bike and I rode on the back of the family bike for about one and half kilometres ‘til we reached the half way check point. At this point Dirk and family continued on the journey while myself and Sonya (who had caught up with us) waited for our road crew. The road crew brought along another bike and set us off on the final leg of our journey. I then proceeded to miss a sign that added another few kilometres to our journey.
The great reward of this whole journey was meeting of all these wonderful people. I look forward to all the possibilities and know that life’s reward is not always given to the fastest or the strongest but to those who endure.
The ride began in Etienne Brule Park, behind the Old Mill TTC Station.
Free tune-ups were available at the outset of the ride. With some fresh air in my tires and grease on my chain, we are ready to go!
Etienne Brule Park is beyond lovely. It’s a fantastic place for a weekend cycle.
Eugene’s bike got a flat tire en route! Thankfully, some fellow cyclists (Dirk and his family) stepped in to help him out.
The repaired ride seemed pretty solid but ….
It got a second flat! The bike had to be towed to the next rest stop ….
…. along with its intrepid rider.
At the next rest stop, Eugene was outfitted with a second bike, loaned to him by fellow rider (Geoff Gans).
Finally, we’ve almost made it to McVean Farm ….
… where friends are waiting.
… as well as a fantastic, organic meal. We are beyond hungry!
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PSst! Word on the Street is this Sunday at Queen's Park where we'll be selling back issues for $5 !