Annual Bike the Barns event brings attention to Adirondack agricultural heritage
By Holly Riddle
On Oct. 7, cyclists from around the country will take to the North Country’s backroads for the annual Bike the Barns event. The agriculture-focused cycling tour starts and ends in Keeseville, bringing attention to the area’s natural bounty and threatened resources as cyclists ride from farm to farm. The Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) oversees the event, in partnership with BikeADK.
“The event raises awareness of not only the farms, but of the Adirondack landscape,” said Adam Dewbury, director of ANCA’s local food system program. The nonprofit helps connect farms and food producers with business assistance, ranging from financial to tech assistance. “This year’s ride particularly speaks to the long history of agriculture in the Adirondacks. I think that evades a lot of people. The narrative of the Adirondack Park is as America’s first wilderness. That obscures the fact that … people have been farming here for millennia. Long before Euro-American settlers came to the area, there were Indigenous people living and farming here.”
Each year’s event follows a different route and regularly sells out its 200 spots. This year’s route traverses 22 miles through the Adirondack Park and North Country, starting at Ausable Brewing Co. before heading into Peru, with stops at the Babbie Rural & Farm Learning Museum and Northern Orchard Co., before finally making its way back into Keeseville, to North Country Creamery and Mace Chasm Farm, and returning to Ausable Brewing.
Along the way, cyclists enjoy tours and similar experiences at each stop, and coolers will be available for cyclists to make purchases and then retrieve their items after the event concludes.
“It’s sensory,” described Doug Haney, owner of BikeADK. “You’re not only riding, but you’re tasting, you’re smelling, you’re really experiencing the landscape — and that’s something you simply can’t do when you’re driving 55 miles per hour in a car.”
Shining a light on small farms
Ausable Brewing Company has participated in the event in past years, on a smaller scale, and owner Dylan Badger jumped at the chance to host Bike the Barns at the brewery for 2023.
“The thing that’s really bringing this area back from a post-industrial kind of depression is these small farms run by a lot of younger entrepreneurs,” Badger said. “[Bike the Barns] really gets people out, seeing these small businesses on these rural roads and… altogether, supporting small business is the best thing we can do to revitalize this area.”
Beyond supporting and bringing attention to small business and agriculture, though, Bike the Barns also shines a light on the threat to both Adirondack farmland and wilderness.
“We have this amazing wilderness that’s important to protect, but we also have these working landscapes that are a deep part of the park’s history and are worthy of preservation. That’s especially important when it comes to farms, because farmland, especially here, is under a pretty heavy threat,” said Dewbury. “The threat to farmland, in many cases, parallels the threat to the wilderness… and that’s development. Farming is a very difficult business, so people put their farmland up for sale and the farmland gets purchased for home development — and in our region, that’s second-home development. People come from more affluent, urban areas to buy an enormous parcel of land… But we only have so much arable land.”
Elevating bike riding
Another upside of the event: It draws attention to cycling as a recreational option in the Adirondacks.
“I especially think that it will be the case when the Adirondack Rail Trail opens that we’re going to see a mega-boom in cycling and that will relieve some of the congestion in some of the [more popular] places. It’ll spread people out more,” said Haney, who also said that he’s noticed year-over-year growth at BikeADK events, with more travelers coming from further away in order to cycle in the Adirondacks, and more travelers planning return cycling trips to the region.
While this year’s Bike the Barns event is sold out, a waitlist is available, and spots will open in the event of cancelations. Participants can add their name to the waitlist at https://www.bikereg.com/bike-the-barns. Otherwise, keep your eye out for more details regarding 2024’s Bike the Barns, which is already in the planning stages.