The Pemberton Valley’s agricultural community shined for visitors and locals on Slow Food Cycle Sunday (Aug. 19) once again this year, with estimated participation about the same or slightly higher than in 2011.
Event co-organizer Niki Vankerk said more than 4,000 people made at least part of the trek up the valley to visit the 15 official locations along the route, as farms and other businesses opened their doors to the public for the eighth annual gathering. About 500 people made the entire 25-kilometre journey to the end of the route at Los Farm.
“We thought it was awesome. It went really smoothly,” Vankerk said of this year’s Slow Food Cycle. “There were a few new farm stops open this year that were fun… so there was a bit of a variety on the places to go. There was lots of food and the weather worked out really well.”
Organizers received a nice window of sunny weather between thunderstorms on Saturday (Aug. 18) and Sunday evenings, and although temperatures were slightly higher than last year, cyclists were treated to sprinklers and hose-downs at a couple of points along the route to help beat the heat.
Vankerk said the organizing team was able to delegate many of the responsibilities this year with a great crop of volunteers, which helped things run without incident this year.
Vankerk described new participating location PemBee Gardens as the “Rookie of the Year,” with lots on offer
“I went there and it was absolutely beautiful,” she said. “They had a trail through their garden that came out into their main yard where four or five tents were open. It was just gorgeous.”
Some returning participants, such as Rootdown Farm, reported bigger benefits from this year’s event compared to previous ones.
“It went really well for us. Slow Food Cycle is a better event for us each year,” said Sarah McMillan, Rootdown co-owner.
Several popular Whistler eateries and food and beverage vendors had booths set up at McMillan’s location to keep cyclists satisfied. But the overall result of the event satisfied McMillan on a new level this year as well.
“The key factor for us that made it a really good day was that it was actually financially worthwhile,” she said. “We actually give up two (farmer’s) markets – we’re at ones in Vancouver and Whistler on Sundays – and we forego that income. But this year… we made probably what we would make at market and it gave us great exposure, obviously.”
One other big benefit in McMillan’s mind was a chance to hear encouraging feedback from visitors to the farm, which has only been around since 2009.
“It sounds kind of cheesy, but just hearing the appreciation from people is worth gold,” she said. “I get tears in my eyes when I talk about it because we work so hard and get very little return, financially. It’ll get better as we go because we’re a really young farm, but just to have people looking around, appreciating what you’re doing… is worth so much.
“There was a lot of interest from people who seem to be very genuine about wanting to help with what we’re doing and believe in what we’re doing.”
The Village of Pemberton once again contributed some financial aid to the event and looked after the registration area in the town centre.
“We really enjoy their support and being able to have the registration in the village, because the ride actually starts outside of the village (boundary),” said Vankerk. “We really appreciate that and hope the relationship can continue.”
Be sure to mark your calendars for next year’s Slow Food Cycle Sunday, which is already scheduled for Aug. 18, 2013.