Why was it so successful, people asked, when 400 cyclists wheeled into Pemberton in 2005 for the first Slow Food Cycle. They asked again the next year, when 1000 people came. And the third, when the event had begun to spawn spin-offs, into other valleys, like the first Slow Food Cycle Agassiz.
The ingredients are pretty basic. Easy biking. Good food. Beautiful farm homesteads opening their gates. No cost to participate. An open invitation.
There was no fixed order in which the ingredients had to be added. No particular start time. No precise directions. No specific requirements of the participating farms. One invited a musician to bang away at a piano on the porch for a few hours. One fired up a barbecue. One toured people through his fields, answering questions. One offered iced coffee. One provided raft-rides home.
We weren’t trying to save the world, to make millions, to stop traffic. We weren’t trying to write the manual on how to host an agritourism event.
We were just trying to celebrate Pemberton.
Because good things grow here.
Good things, like the people who jumped in to add their own contribution to the mix… the spice and flavour that turned those basic ingredients into something completely unique. Something that can’t be duplicated in Agassiz or Comox or Tuscany or the Hunter Valley when they put together their version of the Slow Food Cycle. Because those places don’t have Coffee Paula or Pemberton Meadows Natural Beef or Helmers Organics or the Pemberton Search and Rescue, or firecracker France Lamontagne or Marnie Simon, or the Pemberton Rotary Club, or jewellry maker Leanne Hachey who made hundreds of Slow Food Cycle magnets for riders to take home as souvenirs. Those places don’t have a local grocer named Mark Blundell who supports local growers and local events and signs in visiting Slow Food cyclists to the Legion so they can enjoy a cold lager after their ride. They don’t have artists like Lisa Komuro and Ulla Clark who can capture the essence of the event on a t-shirt or a tote. They don’t have Mount Currie or the Lillooet River or the Pemberton Museum or One Mile Lake…
They have their own secret herbs and spices.
And this is the failure at the heart of the model of the fast food industry. In the ambition to serve you exactly the same-sized, same-flavoured sandwich, in exactly the same kind of wrapper, in the same kind of chair, in an identikit restaurant in a town that is fast becoming Everytown. The failure is that it ends up being a flavourless experience. Because not all of your senses are invited to participate.
To turn everything into a commodity, right down to a slice of potato, we must forfeit so many things. But at the top of the list, we forfeit the pleasure of connection and community.
This is not Everytown. This is Pemberton, British Columbia. In the Lillooet River watershed, in the traditional territory of the Lil’wat people.
Add something to the mix. Yourself.
(reprinted from the Slow Food Cycle Sunday Almanac, 2007.)
The sixth Slow Food Cycle Sunday invites people to step out of their vehicles and put their hands on the handlebars in Pemberton August 15 2010.