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Sep

27

2016

Bike the Barns

A cycling tour connects small farms in New York’s Champlain Valley.

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By Olivia Dwyer

The scene at the inaugural Bike the Barns ride is pastoral calm. The registration tent at Mace Chasm Farm in Keeseville, New York is bookended a dozen movable chicken coops. It’s September 24 and a friend and I push off, heading southeast on a lollipop bike tour. Distracted by views of grazing sheep, apple orchards, and cornfields, I forget to count miles. We stop for apple cider then run into a punchy climb. Cherry, maple, and ash leaves blur into a green tunnel on the descent.  Catching the pack no longer matters. Instead, I wonder what seasonal vegetables and locally raised meat wait for lunch at Reber Rock Farm.

And that’s the point. Inspired by a Wisconsin event that links Madison-area farms on a bike tour, Jake Vennie-Vollrath of the non-profit Adirondack North Country Association worked with small farms to design a version for New York’s Adirondacks. While the area’s agricultural roots stretch back to early European settlers, the last decade has seen a resurgence of small farms connected to the loca-vore movement. “At farmer’s market, you get to speak to farmers a little bit,” he says. “With Bike the Barns, you’re able to spend time with them. You see what they’re growing and hear their plans.”

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Out on the back roads, granite cliffs jut out from Adirondack foothills showing hints of scarlet and orange leaves. When we arrive at Reber Rock, a horse-powered farm run by two families, I swap my lunch ticket for a pair of handmade corn tortillas filled with summer squash, kale, and Cabot cheddar from the Poco Más Tacos food truck. Other cyclists duck into the farm store, stocked with Reber Rock’s maple syrup, sunflower oil, and soaps—event organizers shuttle their purchases back to Mace Chasm Farm.

Later, at Ben Wever Farm, Linda Gilliland explains how their 70 head of beef cattle make it from pasture to table. Back in the saddle, a headwind picks up just as we hit the crux of the circuit, a six-mile climb out of Willsboro. But the effort pays off back at Mace Chasm, where the farm’s food truck dishes up chorizo, barbacoa, pollo, and vegetarian tacos. Neighboring AuSable Brewery pours Jungle Rustler red ale and German Hefeweizen—all included in the $85 price of admission. We score red wine and rosemary sausages from the farm store, plus yogurt from North Country Creamery across the road. When there are this many farms serving up food, you don’t go home with post ride hunger pains.

Inside the Mace Chasm Farm butcher shop, which also stocks cheese from nearby Sugar House Creamery.

Inside the Mace Chasm Farm butcher shop, which also stocks cheese from nearby Sugar House Creamery.

If you go:

Watch btb.adirondack.org and follow ANCA on Facebook for information on the 2017 event. 

Plan your own tour with help from Adirondack Harvest, which supports local farms in the area, and the Lake Champlain Region’s bike routes focused on agricultural and historical landmarks. 

High Peaks Cyclery, an hour’s drive from Mace Chasm in Lake Placid, rents road bike from $35. Plattsburgh’s Viking Ski N’ Cycle offers service and repairs a 20 minutes north of the farm. 

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