In 2010 Kate and John packed up their bags and biked across the United States visiting farms along the way. After seven months on the road, they headed back to the East Coast to do an apprenticeship in order to learn the nuts and bolts of farming before striking out on their own. Now in Kent, CT, Food Cyclist has partnered with a brewery and they are growing hops, growing sustainable food, and brewing delicious beer. They share a bit about the lessons they’ve learned along the way.
How did all of this, meaning Food Cyclist, start?
J: It started when I was going to potentially lose my job because the contract was coming to a close and my boss wouldn’t give us any information as to whether or not they were going to re-sign. So I decided that I would come up with a plan and move on to something else, but that I would ride my bike for a while and find out the plan one way or
another. They did re-sign the contract in the end and I had all these plans. I knew they were going to go through the whole process all over again in three years’ time so I decided to stick with my plan. I like to eat and wanted a theme for trip.
I really love all the elements of farming but the thing I love the most is feeding people. I became a professional farmer because a friend of mine opened my eyes to organic food. I went to visit him and dug potatoes and loved it and was enthralled with the sense of community. The more I learned about the food system, the more I wanted to tell people, but telling people to buy organic wasn’t changing much. So if I wanted to be the change I wanted to see I had to learn more. You have to be educated to sell your product. That was the start of visiting farms. When I started making food then people would talk about it more and people would eat it. Our lifestyle is very wholesome and I watch it affect other people. Agriculture quickly becomes a universal language. Everyone farms in every country somehow.
K: I saw us staying in the city but then I didn’t see us staying in the city. I eventually gravitated toward the idea. It was a big risk to take. I was coming at it from a lighthearted perspective. The further we got away from home the more I realized that it was going to be a big turning point for us and for me. The trip helped me realize what I was made of, what I should be focusing on.
What’s the biggest thing you took away from your trip?
J: People are fundamentally good.
K: People would have nothing but offer you something. We went to a public park and set up our stuff and it started raining so we moved under a pavilion and we made ramen noodles. We were scoping out the scene and we saw a rock and all of a sudden it started moving. It was a man with a dog and he came under the pavilion too. We just started talking to him and learned all about his life. We went back the next day to bring him some food.
Tell me about starting your farm.
J: In the first year we moved we bought a car, had a baby, started new jobs and started a small business. No, we actually moved twice. To find farmland I would look at open tracks of land on Google maps, find a house, and go to people’s houses and ask if I could farm on their open land.
K: It’s taxing. This is the best situation we could have found under our circumstances.
J: We’re involved with brewing and distilling so there’s diversity in what we do.
What do you enjoy about it?
J:I find farming to be more rewarding than anything I’ve ever done because of the food. When you sit down and your entire meal is made on site, it’s awesome. We had a couple of pinnacles this year; earlier this summer we did a beer dinner where 80% of the food came from the farm and 9 of our beers were served with the food. We also had a Hop Harvest Festival, and we had 100 people come and eat all of our farm food, and we had a pig roast, picked hops after, then threw all the hops into a batch.
K: We may not be able to nail down concentrated family time, but we can almost always sit around and have lunch together. That’s really cool. We may not have those full days together, but we always cross paths and say hello.
What would you want people to know about farming?
J: There’s value in having something raised in a sustainable and wholesome way and it takes an intelligent person to do that.
K: I completely agree. I think the point is driven home when you see it benefiting the next generation. Seeing the benefits for the next generation, for our little girl, blows my mind every day; the opportunities that it provides in seeing the world in all of its different parts and getting to experience them that way.
What’s your vision?
J: To raise a healthy daughter and have a happy marriage. After that everything’s kind of ancillary.
K: Living my life in a way that teaches my daughter to leave a happy and healthy life.
Big thanks to Kate and John for having me up on the farm. It was a great experience complete with incredible fresh food and beyond delicious beer.