Farm to Fork Fondo brings out 600 cyclists with love for Berkshire landscapes and farms

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PITTSFIELD — A near record-breaking turnout of cyclists sped off from Hancock Shaker Village on Sunday morning to highlight the harmonious relationship between biking, farming and the local landscape.

The inaugural Berkshire Farm to Fork Fondo bicycle ride took 600 bikers on four different courses — the longest from Hancock south to Sheffield — with the peddlers stopping at nine pre-selected farms for fresh dairy products, apples and other homegrown food and goods.

Retired professional cyclist Tyler Wren of Wrenegade Sports and his volunteers staged the first Farm To Fork ride four years ago, with the Berkshire ride the sixth and latest location added to the lineup.

Wren said the 600 bikers is the second-largest turnout since the rides began in 2013, with the western-most county in Massachusetts a natural fit to promoting local agriculture.

"We're at a great pace and with this sellout we hope to go further south and into Canada," he said. "The Berkshires' great diversity of farms and more farms being developed is a great backdrop for our message."

A message best summed up on the organization's website: "Wrenegade Sports aims to promote physical activity in a fun and supportive environment, create achievable challenges for people of all ages and abilities [and] to leave our host communities better than we found them."

Fork to Farm Fondo rides raise money for local farms through rider registration fees, donations from ,local businesses and sponsorships.

From recreational to competitive cyclists, including Stanley Cup-winning goalie for the New York Rangers, Mike Richter, the 600 strong spread out over courses of 10, 31, 60 and 89 miles long.

Pamela and Andy Breslin from Lenox chose the 31-mile trek, joining friends Doug and Toddy Munson of Richmond.

"We have a garden at home so I'm looking forward to the fresh food," said Mrs. Breslin.

Her husband views the Berkshire ride as another way to promote the entire county.

"When I ride around with people from Boston, they never knew what we have here," Mr. Breslin noted.

"Also, maybe this will help encourage more bike paths in the Berkshires," added Mr. Munson.

Sunday's Farm to Fork event primarily drew cyclists from 25 states, primarily New England and New York, including Mark Lurz of Clifton Park, just north of Albany, N.Y. A good friend of Wren's, the retired Navy officer has been impressed with the rides from Day 1.

"I like the courses Tyler lays out; they're challenging no matter the length and great rest stops," he said.

Not always.

Lurz recalled one farm in Vermont offering a unique food.

"They had cookies with edible flowers. They looked good to eat, not so the taste," he recalled.

The bikers did get to fuel up Saturday during a "Meet the Farmer" dinner at Hancock Shaker Village. The meal of locally produced and prepared food was a hit with Katie Hudon from Holden.

"The food was fresh and the beets I had you can't find in a store," she said.

Will Van Heuvelen and Jake Mazar of Wheelhouse Farm in Amherst was on hand Saturday with their smoker serving up barbecue featuring Western Massachusetts raised meats.

After Sunday's ride, they were ready to feed the cyclists with pork shoulder and chicken seasoned with a secret rub.

"It's so secret, the recipe changes all the time," Van Heuvelen said with a wry smile.

Across the New York border in Columbia County, Kinderhook's Maple Hill Creamery on Sunday was serving up it several yogurt flavors made with grass-fed cow's milk. Operated by the Joseph family, 19-year-old John Joseph pointed out how grass-fed is better than feeding corn and grains to the cow, producing a better dairy product.

"You can smell the difference in the milk," he said.

Reach staff writer Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.


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