Eight hundred cyclists will be pedaling around Columbia and Dane Counties this Sunday, Sept. 15. But it’s not a race; it’s a fundraising ride that will raise $50,000 to support programs that connect Wisconsin’s small farms and limited-income families.
The thirteenth annual Bike the Barns event is hosted by FairShare CSA Coalition, a non-profit that supports farmers practicing CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture. CSA connects individuals and local farms in a mutually supportive relationship. In a CSA, people become members of a farm in exchange for recurrent shares of the seasonal harvest.
FairShare’s Executive Director, Carrie Sedlak, says Bike the Barns features the best of Wisconsin’s harvest season, offering participants farm tours and gourmet food at every stop along the route. “Bike the Barns is a unique event in that provides an engaging experience for riders, while celebrating the small-scale and sustainable farmers who work hard every day to produce fresh, organic vegetables for all families, regardless of income.”
On this ride, it’s possible to consume more calories than you burn. It’s not just about delicious food and stunning views, though. Riders raise funds for the Partner Shares program at FairShare. Partner Shares began in 1993 to improve access to fresh food grown by local farmers. The program provides financial assistance to limited-income households and eligible organizations to purchase CSA shares from FairShare farms.
Partner Shares participants have called the program a “win-win” that has empowered their families to eat healthy foods. One participant said, “Partner Shares is amazing! It allowed my family to participate in a CSA, and my kids were eating veggies like never before. All the veggies were delivered so fresh, and we received information on storage and recipe ideas.”
One farmer who is riding this year is Kat Becker of Cattail Organics in Athens, Wisconsin. She says Partner Shares is especially important for people living in rural Wisconsin, where she’s located. “Partner Shares and Bike the Barns create an opportunity for people to become direct participants in the food system. It’s a good entry point for people who may not be familiar with CSA or may not otherwise have financial means.”
Partner Shares has provided more than 2,100 CSA shares to families in Wisconsin, Sedlak said. “All of this has been made possible by our generous Bike the Barns riders, volunteers, and donors.”
FairShare CSA Coalition is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in Madison, Wisconsin. Its mission is to support and connect farmers and consumers through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). FairShare CSA Coalition envisions a future where CSA is the backbone of a strong local food system and where all families have access to locally-produced, organic food from small family farms.