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Bicyclists pedal through Mission Valley, share locally grown meal

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ST. IGNATIUS — Fueled by locally-grown, farm-fresh food, around 120 bicyclists got on their bicycles Saturday and pedaled around the Mission Valley during the third installment of the Mission Mountain Area Pedal to Plate (MMAPP) farm-to-farm bike tour.

Designed with a wide range of riders with varying levels of experience in mind, the roughly 36 

mile self-guided, family-friendly bike excursion leads riders through some of the valley’s most picturesque back roads and iconic farms.

“The two big draws are the scenery and the food,” said Kaylee Thornley, one of the MMAPP event organizers. “On a bike, you almost feel like you’re a part of the landscape. It’s an experience you can’t get by just driving through.”

The sentiment is shared by Choteau cyclist Claire Hodgskiss. “It’s really beautiful here,” she said. “The Mission Mountains are wonderful.”

The MMAPP event began more than five years ago as conversations between a number of local cyclists and farmers. After hearing about similar agritourism events held in the Bitterroot Valley and elsewhere, community members thought the model could be a good fit for the Mission Valley. A planning committee came together with the aim to draw cyclists and local food enthusiasts to the area by showing off the valley and its ag producers.

“Registration filled up quickly this year, with both new and returning riders,” said Thornley. “This event has really grown over the years.”

Sponsored by Mission West Community Development Partners, Glacier Bank, St. Luke Community Healthcare, Valley Banks, and the Western Montana Growers Cooperative, MMAPP has experienced steady growth in overall interest and the number of participants each year. 

The day started in the heart of St. Ignatius at the historic Red Barn, where riders enjoyed a small breakfast and a cup of java from local coffee roasters Good Coffee Roasting Company before setting off on their epic journey.

Roughly two-and-a-half-miles into the tour, riders made their first farm stop at Greenblade Farms, a certified organic vegetable grower famous for their garlic. 

Stops at Shady Maple Farm, Lyda Gardens and Roaming Bison Ranch marked the itinerary during the first leg of the tour.

Laura Wheeler, who runs Roaming Bison Ranch with her husband, Tony, said Saturday’s event was a great way to share what they do at the ranch and for visitors to learn about agricultural production in the heart of the Mission Valley.

Roaming Bison Ranch raises 100% grass-fed and grass-finished bison, beef and open pasture pork.

After a brief afternoon lunch at the barn, bicyclists finished the remaining 16 miles of to the tour visiting Glory B Ranch, Awesome Acres Tea Garden and Foothill Farm. A stop for ice cream at Stutzman’s General Store treated riders before heading back to the barn.

The tour ended with a delicious farm to table dinner prepared with locally-grown ingredients and served with fresh brew from the Ronan Co-op Brewery. While the riders ate, the duo Late Bloomers provided music and entertainment. 

“This was a fun ride,” said Hodgskiss. “I am definitely up for a return visit.”

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