Biking for a good cause: Food Justice

Max Marcus, The Recorder, July 1, 2019

GREENFIELD — The on-and-off rain Sunday started just as the Food Justice Bike Ride’s 42-mile ride took off from Greenfield Community Farm at 8:30 a.m.

“Just in time for the rain,” ride director Roark Herron said as bikers lined up.

“The hardcore folks, the 42-milers, it didn’t seem to bother them,” Herron said after the first group of bikers had left.

Herron guessed that the weather might affect participation in the 18-mile and 9-mile rides, starting later in the morning, as they would likely attract less experienced, “fair-weather” bikers who may be uncomfortable with wet roads.

The 42-mile route, starting at the Greenfield Community Farm off of Leyden Road, goes north into central Bernardston, east on Route 10, south on Gill’s Main Road into Turners Falls, then along the Connecticut River down to Sunderland, where it crosses the river to Deerfield and comes back up to Greenfield.

The 18-mile ride goes through Bernardston and Gill, then loops back to Greenfield before reaching the bridge to Turners Falls. The 9-mile ride goes through Bernardston, then comes back to Greenfield before reaching Gill.

This year’s routes, compared to the first Food Justice Bike Ride last year, took fewer main roads and spent more time in the countryside, Herron said.

Upinngil Farm in Gill was a 10-mile rest stop for the 42- and 18-mile rides. By about 9:30 all the 42-milers had passed through, having left Greenfield an hour before.

“I’m soaked but it’s awesome,” said Justin Schotanus, on the 42-mile route. “It was a torrential downpour a little while ago but it’s fine now.”

This year’s ride had greater participation, Herron said, with about 80 bikers compared to last year’s 63, and raised close to $10,000 for Just Roots, a local organization that promotes access to local food. Last year’s Food Justice Bike Ride raised about $6,800 for the Stone Soup Cafe, a “pay-what-you-can” restaurant in All Souls Church in Greenfield.

The money will help subsidize Just Roots’ farm share program, making it more accessible for low-income members, said Jessica O’Neill, Just Roots executive director.

“Generally, (a shared farm) has been an exclusive model. We’re trying to make it an accessible one,” O’Neill said.

Just Roots normally operates on about $30,000 to $40,000 a year, O’Neill said, so $10,000 in one day is a “game-changer.” The organization has about 200 to 250 members, and about 60 percent are low-income, O’Neill said. She estimated that $10,000 will subsidize 100 families for the next 20 weeks.

Reach Max Marcus at mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ex 261.

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