From ‘Pedal to Plate’
Cyclists tour Mission Valley farms, sample fare
RONAN–Nearly 80 neon-clad cyclists left the Lake County Fairgrounds on Saturday morning carrying forks in their pockets and bags. The riders explored 40 miles of the Mission Valley’s biking infrastructure and used their forks to taste the products of local agriculture at its source.
On the inaugural Mission Mountain Area Pedal to Plate bike ride, participants cycled to four stops where farmers served them local food products. Three stops were at farms where the food served was grown.
Rosie Goldich, food and ag coordinator at Lake County Community Development Corporation, was part of the planning committee for the event. She said the event was mutually beneficial: farmers displayed their products, tourists spent money in the region, and cyclists got an intimate look at the Mission Valley and its food system.
“This lets people know where their food is coming from. They actually get to meet the farmers,” she said.
A portion of each participant’s $50 entry fee went toward compensating farmers for the products that they served at the event.
At the first stop, Round Butte Clubhouse, cyclists enjoyed Dixon Melons from Dixon. Peaceful Haven Honey Farm, the next stop, featured sourdough bread topped with honey and Gouda cheese from Flathead Lake Cheese. Glenwood Farm near Back Road served farm-grown lamb stew, cucumbers, and bread. Next, cyclists visited Fresh Roots Farm on Mountain View Road for strawberry popsicles made from strawberries grown at the farm. The event concluded with a dinner of local pulled pork, roasted root vegetables, and green salad catered by Take It or Leave It of St. Ignatius.
MMAPP cyclists were adults of all ages and cycling backgrounds. Participants rode mountain bikes, road bikes, recumbent bikes, and one couple pedaled a tandem bicycle.
During her opening remarks, event organizer Janet Sucha said that this diversity was part of the intention of the event.
“It doesn’t matter what kind of biker you are, we just want you to have fun,” she told participants.
Sucha, a local cyclist, proposed the idea for the event at a Ronan Community Roundtable meeting in March. The Bitterroot Fork to Farm Tour, a similar event in the Bitterroot Valley, inspired Sucha and other community members.
“We wanted to bring a little tourism money as well as really highlight the beautiful place we live in,” she said.
Farmers and cyclists from the area joined a steering committee, which planned the event. Lake County Community Development Corporation was MMAPP’s fiscal agent.
MMAPP garnered the support of a wide-range of community partners, from fiscal sponsor St. Luke Community Healthcare, to the Lake County Sherriff’s office who managed traffic, to the Montana Department of Transportation, who cleaned the bike path for the event.
Participants came from across the state. Some cyclists were from as far as Michigan, California, and Colorado.
Cyclist Lisa Fleischer attended from Kalispell.
“I wanted to support the local effort,” she said.
Fleischer said that she enjoyed all the food.
“The highlight has been just hanging out with friends and being outside,” she said.
Will Tusick, owner of Glenwood Farm, appreciated that the cyclists visited his farm without burning fossil fuels for transportation. He said he enjoyed sharing his lamb and produce with the bikers.
“They’re being nourished by sustainable agriculture. They’ll notice that they have more energy on the ride,” Tusick said.
The event is being planned again for next year, and Sucha said it will likely take a different route annually to highlight different farms throughout the county. The steering committee hopes to use funds raised from the event to hold a community event focused on bike safety in the spring.
The cycling event, Sucha noted, effectively showcased the region.
“Some of our riders said they didn’t even know Ronan had these things. They had never been off the highway,” she said. “It was so lovely for them to see a different part of the valley.”