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Bike to Meet Your Farmer
A grassroots organization called Human-Powered Mountaineers Inc. has sprouted out of the 2011 rain and is going strong this summer. The organization, teamed with local farmers, has been on a mission to educate the Bozeman area community about ways to live a healthier, happier lifestyle. Three more events will be held this month.
Started by Christopher Bangs and Justene Sweet, Human-Powered Mountaineers has evolved from biking to mountains, to biking to farms. Originally, the pair would bike out to mountains they wanted to climb, ski, or snowboard in an effort to gain sponsorship as a way of raising money for organic farming networks throughout the United States and Canada. The program has grown, however, and now the group is busy organizing group bicycle rides, putting together educational slideshows, and trying to get the word out about upcoming events.
The bicycle rides begin on scheduled dates at 10 a.m. outside of Bozeman’s Leaf and Bean and take participants to a local farmer’s back door. After reaching the farm, people can tour the facilities and get to know farmers in the community. The endeavor concludes with everyone biking back to the Leaf and Bean after having heard a few words from co-founder Christopher Bangs.
Bangs will be on every tour, and explains, “I may be in costume, and talk about revolutionary ideas that, to some people, will be contagious.” These ideas include loving what nature has to offer, eating organic, and finding healthier ways to live. This “revolution” all stems from Bangs’ personal desire to show his passion for the Earth through self-supported mountaineering expeditions, which he has been doing for the past ten years.
In 2004, on his way to climb and ski Mount Rainier, Bangs began to feel worn out from all the gas station food he had been fueling up on. Upon observing a nearby garden it occurred to him why not stop and ask for some healthier food. In 2011 he and Sweet headed for the Bugaboo Mountains in British Columbia. The two contacted organic farmers along the way and were able to get food right there in the fields. This was the seed from which Human-Powered Mountaineers grew.
Bangs and Sweet are targeting vegetable farms for their tours this summer, as both are vegan athletes and believe that this is the healthiest diet available. “This diet and lifestyle will heal people and the planet,” said Bangs. After researching online, the two were able to contact farms around the community and have heard warm responses from farm owners. Many of these farms have facilities suitable to hosting large groups, and have sought ways of educating the public about sustainable farming. The hope is that these bike tours might increase the demand for local produce, which would enable farmers in the county to increase production.
The reaction from the community has also been positive, however, Bangs has noticed that despite people’s excitement, they have been slow to get involved. He hopes to see increased involvement, and would like participants to take life to the next level.
Anyone fit enough to bike the distance is welcome to come on these self-powered tours, and there is no cap on the number of people invited. All of Bozeman could show up and Bangs and Sweet would be thrilled. While there is a sign up list on their Facebook page, people are also encouraged to just show up at the Leaf and Bean on the day of an event, ready to ride.
The program officially started this summer, and July 14 marked the first farm tour with a trip out to Three Hearts Farm. Bikers also traveled to 3 Fiddles Farm and Gallatin Valley Botanical in July and three more tours are planned for August. Saturday, August 4, Bangs will lead a tour to Harvest House Farm, between Four Corners and Gallatin Gateway. The following week, August 12, bikers can go to Slabtown Farm. August 18 marks the overnight stay at Norris Hot Springs, a weekend ride with camping, music, dinner, and soaking in the springs. This is the only tour that will cost participants anything, and the estimated cost is $20.
Harvest House Farm is part of a growingly more common system of agriculture, called Community Supported Agriculture. Members pay or work for shares of the fruits and vegetables produced by the farmers, and receive crops on a weekly basis throughout the growing season. This farm utilizes hoop-house greenhouses, worm based compost, and root-cellar preservation for their crops.
Bangs hopes that the Bozeman community will drive the biking program. “People will decide where this program goes, not me,” said Bangs. “I will do it as long as people want it.” People have to care, or else nothing will change. Passion and will are what drove Bangs to start this program, and passion and will are what it will take to make changes for the greater good throughout the world.
The program gets the word out through their facebook page, blogspot, posters, and through word of mouth. Check out Human-Powered Mountaineers’ Facebook events page or the blogspot for more information.
Jessianne Wright is a recent graduate of Bozeman High School. She will attend MSU in the fall as an Honors Scholar.