By Emma Buchanan
2015 Pedal to Plate Cycling Tour Member
The amazing 2015 Pedal to Plate Tour has been over for almost 2 weeks now (say whaaat?!). I can’t believe it, we all can’t believe it, but we thought now that it’s over, we’d talk about some of our highlights from the last few days of the trip.
1. Team-Effort Ride on a Trucking Highway
On Wednesday, departing for Erin after our magical morning at Peace Ranch, we hit a road that none of us were expecting. We had 35 km to go from Peace Ranch in Caledon to Zocalo Organics in Erin. It started off with a massive hill and gravel – with it being rural Ontario, we could have predicted that much. However, as soon as we left the gravel, we ran into what seemed like a dreamy road initially: well paved, decent-sized shoulder, speed limits of 60 km/h and minimal traffic. We couldn’t have been more wrong about the dreamy-ness, though. After being on the road for just a few moments, we began to notice how many large trucks there were. Even upon seeing us, the drivers of these trucks refused to neither slow down nor give us enough space; I’m certain that if I had reached to my left, I could have touched some of them. Now, at Otesha, we know a lot about bike safety. We plan safe routes ahead of time using Google Street View to ensure good road conditions, a wide shoulder, and speed limits lower than 80 km/h. Sometimes, however, there is only one way to get from A to B, especially when you’re dealing with rural roads.
It’s a more than intense feeling to be a cyclist on a trucking road. As one of our tour members said, you feel like an ant blowing in the grass. There are ways to make it so much safer though, and our team really banded together to make this happen. Here are my recommendations for safe riding on busy roads after our experience:
- If you don’t have a good shoulder, ride at least a meter out from the white line. Sounds kind of dangerous, huh? That was my initial reaction too, but hear me out. By riding a good distance from the curb, you force cars to make a full pass around you instead of trying to slip by. At high speeds, slipping by at a close distance is pretty dangerous.
- Stay in groupings of 2-3; no more, no less. Biking alone lowers your visibility, while groups of more than 3 causes cars to make a longer pass, which is more dangerous. 2-3 is the sweet spot of visibility and passing length.
- Wear your reflective vest!! This is one of mandatory safety items on Otesha tours and it is invaluable.
- If you feel extremely unsafe, stop! Although it might take you a bit out of your way, there’s always time to re-route.
As soon as we started taking #1 seriously, cars slowed to almost a full stop and cruised behind us until there was no oncoming traffic and they could make a safe pass. We even had huge trucks stopped on the road. Now, that felt pretty powerful.
2. The happy cows at Whole Circle Farm.
Whole Circle Farm is a biodynamic farm, meaning that the farmers there have a holistic understanding of agriculture. They see the farm as an organism and intentionally connect to the land. Biodynamic farmers plant according to the biodynamic calendar, which relies on moon cycles. If they encounter a problem, they don’t think “How can I stop it?”, but first “Where does the problem stem from? Where does the deficiency lie?” Johann, one of the owners of Whole Circle, talked to us at length about his farming philosophy and the way he spoke about the cows really stuck with me. He said that if a calf goes missing, he doesn’t immediately panic as many farmers would. He waits to see how the mother reacts – he trusts that she knows where it is. If she begins to show signs of stress, then he and his farmers will begin to search.
3. The sweet summer carrots and the even sweeter interns at Everdale.
What can we say? Everdale has a renowned early summer harvest of sweet carrots. They sell carrots at market earlier than any other farm in the area. And boy, are they good! Everdale’s Hillsburgh Farm, where we visited for a tour and workshare, even hosts a Carrot Fest every fall! This location also runs a Sustainable Farming Certificate program – an 8-month training program that helps up-and-coming farmers develop organic techniques that are good for food, the earth, and people. The interns participate in all farm tasks, have specific duties each week, take in-class lessons each week, and even get their own garden plots. Our intern tour guides, Nick & Brianna, who are completing the program this year, were truly splendid hosts.
4. The Yome at Zocalo Organics.
A Yome is a semi-permanent outdoor structure, a cross between a yurt and a geodesic dome. Its structure is made of triangular pieces of wood, instead of crossed wood like in a yurt. What a beautiful place to have evening meetings and present our new Olumni with their Otesha t-shirts!
5. Otesha Olumni hosts!
Big shout out to the ’09 Great Lakes Tour here. Seb Ramirez, one of our amazing Olumni, now owns Zocalo Organics with his partner Bethany. Seb told us that he was inspired to start his own organic farm while on Otesha, because they stayed at lots of farms, and he found them particular moving. Can we say: poster child? What a pleasure it was to share meals with these amazing folks.
6. Foraging with the Wild Foragers Society of Toronto
Did you know that those pesky dandelions that grow on your lawn are completely edible? The greens are delicious in stir-fries. Did you know that aspirin is made of the thin branches of weeping willow trees? Take a bite into one and you’ll notice the resemblance to the taste of an aspirin if you’ve ever accidentally chomped down on one. The Wild Foragers Society based in Toronto runs frolics where they teach folks about the wild plants growing at your feet that could end up in your dinner. Check ‘em out and join for a frolic!
So, that’s all from us for now folks. We’ve an incredible farm-filled journey. Thanks for following it, and we hope you’ll join us one day.
Want to be part of a life-changing Otesha adventure? Join our East Coast Cycling and Performing Tour this fall! Apply now to secure your spot!