Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Food Cycles Bicycle Tour: An Introduction

Here's the simple version: We're leaving in December 2012 from the Oregon coast. We'll travel five months, across the southern half of the US, and arrive in Boston, Massachusetts. From there we take the train back home. We'll carry only what fits in the two bags on the back of our bikes. We'll stay along the way with farmers, who will make it possible for us to follow a 100-mile diet as we traverse the continent. These farms will be our mileposts, from the citrus groves of California to the peanut plantations of the south. Along the way, we'll write and blog about our experience, we'll talk to as many people as we can, and do what we can to draw attention to this small act of defiance.

Here's the more complex one: Our journey starts with an intense curiosity about what lies between these two coasts, and what that means for our futures. We want to know this: What can we cultivate here in America, and what is there to harvest?

A is for adventure,

the ultimate drug, and the seed that sprouted the cross-country tour idea in Hannah's mind as a teenager. Growing up in America's (corn)breadbasket, Minnesota, she not only developed an acute need to seek a more varied landscape, she also learned a lesson that's easier to overlook in more urban zones: How completely dependent we are on fossil fuels for our existence.

Meanwhile, out here in the Pacific Northwest, a solution based in re-localizing the food supply has been growing since before I was born. As a college student in Eugene, Oregon in the pivotal time between the publication of Michael Pollan's The Omnivores' Dilemma and the stock market crash, it seemed that any other pursuit than learning to feed oneself (now and in the post-apocalyptic future) would have been frivolous. So I graduated, went off to an organic farm to apprentice for six months, and then jobless, landless, and a bit pessimistic about the future, I landed at my Grandma's house on the Oregon coast and found work on a crab fishing boat.

On a crabbing boat is not where one expects to meet an individual with more artistic vision and sense of purpose than oneself, but that's where it happened. Fresh from the Midwest, Hannah was finding a new definition of survival at the continent's edge. For these two greenhorn deckhands, the best catch of the season was the beginnings of a new partnership.

A year and a half later, the forecast is good for the two of us but not for the planet. We don't need to tell you, dear reader, the challenges we face as individuals and as a society. With the resources we all rely on -- oil, fresh water, clean air, cash flow -- running low, things are getting downright weird. Hannah and I aren't the only ones seeing some serious and depressing choices in the near future.

What is a young couple to do? Imagine that the next generation will fix it, have a few kids, and live in peaceful oblivion until these problems come knocking on our own door? Sell the car and move to a farm, hoping that securing our own food supply will extend our survival even though outside resources will continue to evaporate?

Having thought through the options, we realize that there probably is no perfect choice. Given our set of skills and resources, and the sometimes unbearable frustration of knowing that most of America has chosen the Oblivion option, we feel that the best course of action at this moment in life is to apply the soles of our feet to the ends of our crankshafts and pedal toward a more possible future.

Won't you join us?

You don't have to ride from Eugene to Boston with us. You can pedal to work twice a week. You can put some herbs in the window box of your apartment. You can tell a friend about our mission. You can support us with a hot shower along the way or with a contribution of gear or even extra cash you have lying around.

Watch this space for updates as we creatively fundraise for this mission, build our bicycles, try to get rid of as much stuff as possible before the trip, and refine our philosophy. Showing your support digitally will encourage others to do the same. We thank you!

- Tuula

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