Members and supporters of Alleycat Acres, a collective of Seattle urban farmers that creates gardens to bring people together to grow food, are getting out their bikes for a fundraising ride that will loop through a number of Patch communities on Saturday, March 5.
The “Ride Hard, Grow Forth” event will include 100 riders circling Lake Washington. Each rider has pledged to raise at least $60 along with the ride's modest $10 registration fee.
Alleycat Acres is a recent addition to the fast-growing urban-farming trend. The seven core members are young, energetic, creative and committed. They seek out “underutilized” land (hence the “alleycat” name) and get agreements with the landowner to put it into production. Then they invite local people to help out and share in the bounty.
Two Farms, Lots of Biking
Since beginning last spring, the Alleycats have held weekly work parties to establish two Seattle urban farms, one on Beacon Hill and the other at 22nd Avenue and East Union Street, and last year they grew more than 700 pounds of food. And they pledged to use bikes as their primary form of transportation when doing it.
“Urban farming and bicycling both help in creating healthy communities -- both socially and physically,” says Sean Conroe, one of the founders. “And when you think about it, transportation is a huge component of our food system, so, in challenging the existing paradigms around what it means to grow food, we figured we should also challenge that meme that the automobile is king.”
The group’s mission statement also talks about connecting people with each other, and with the urban land on which we all live. “Farming is a medium that reconnects us, both mentally and physically, to our surroundings,” the statement reads.
I like this philosophy a lot, and think it goes well with cycling. When you’re riding along at 12 to 15 miles per hour, you appreciate your surroundings a lot more. You’re more connected to it, and to other people, rather than being cocooned in a car.
Conroe says the level of support from cyclists happily surprised him. Riders signed up so quickly, the ’Cats cut off registration in less than a month. “We originally planned for 100, and should have planned for at least 200,” he says. “At this point, I'm pretty optimistic about reaching our $6K goal.”
That money will go toward installing a water line in their Beacon Hill farm this year and possibly a rainwater catchment system at their Central District farm. And the group hopes to add one or two new sites this year. The group is not yet a nonprofit organization, but it hopes to apply for 501(c)(3) status soon. Still, donations are tax-deductible, because Sustainable Seattle is the group’s fiscal agent.
Use Bikes for Fundraising
There’s a good lesson to be taken from this effort: you can use your bikes to fundraise for your favorite cause.
• Is your kid’s school in need of funds? How about a bike ride through your community to raise funds for school sports? That one could include kids as well as adults.
• Do you want to advocate for more bike lanes or sidewalks? How about getting your elected officials out on a Saturday bike tour of the community.
• Does the food bank need food and money? Use bikes with panniers or trailers to collect food and donations, then parade them down to the facility.
These are only a few that come to mind, and I’m sure that, like the Alleycatters, creative people getting together for a cause can come up with more fun events.
If you do have fundraising events or community outings on your bikes, please let me know about it. My e-mail is at the end of this article. If you give me enough lead-time, I may even write about it and show up to ride!
Meeting alert: North Creek Trail
If you’ve tried to ride east-west through the communities in south Snohomish County, you know how difficult it can be to find a good route. And right now, there are no off-street trails for cyclists to use. But one effort to change that is underway. Snohomish County is planning to build the North Creek Trail, which would connect the Interurban Trail in Everett to the Burke-Gilman/Sammamish Trail in Bothell.
The county, with cyclists' input, has come up with two possible routes west of Bothell-Everett Highway (state Route 527) and north of 208th Street Southeast. Learn more about the plan and offer your input at three upcoming public meetings. The first is March 9 in Bothell.
This Sound Cycling column is still a work in progress. I began it during the dead of winter, and we haven't gotten a chance yet to ride together. But this summer, I want to ride with people in all Patch communities, tell your stories and help others find the best biking routes in each community. I always welcome ideas for rides, your favorite routes and suggestions of article topics. Please drop me a line!
Bill Thorness is the author of Biking Puget Sound: 50 Rides from Olympia to the San Juans. Contact him at email@example.com.