How do you think about food? Do you question where your food comes from and how it was produced? Are you concerned about whether it comes from a local source? Surely, the cost of food often comes to mind. Or, do you simply think about eating it?
A new activity in Hamilton seeks to open our eyes to greater possibilities for our experience with food. The Hamilton Food Rides are free community bike rides designed to explore the Hamilton food system. Each ride travels a different route and stops at various community gardens, urban farms, markets, cooperative grocery stores, etc. Each ride ends with a patio drink, or food activity that offers a chance to digest what you’ve learned.
For all of the food initiatives taking place in the city, it can be easy to miss what might be happening in your local park - or even a neighbour’s backyard. There are myriad types of gardens, organizations, and models, each carrying extensive lexicons and participants well-versed in the processes and language. That’s why an activity like Hamilton Food Rides is a perfect way to get your hands into the soil. Participants at each location provide a brief lecture of their set-up and program. The tour is designed to present an assortment of possibilities in hopes that you’ll find at least one that you’d like to become involved with.
Routes are designed around different sections of the city. Biking provides an alternative mode of transport to access the food system. It also provides a special perspective of our city; it tangibly links the journey to the range of possibilities for participation.
Hamilton Food Rides are organized by a trio of Matts – Matt Thompson, Matt Carson, and Matt Thomson. Thomson believes that becoming active in the food system provides an alternative path toward discipline, structure, and team work – the sorts of attributes usually associated with participation in organized sports. These food system nodes offer different experiences, and different ways to build the same values, widening opportunity for community involvement. To see the social aspect of food in our community, you might need to look through a different lens in order to see its true scope.
“Because food is so essential to sustaining life, it also has a huge social impact,” says Carson. “It’s an entry point to new cultures, and types of people, and can break down social isolation to be a starting point for community building.”
With advances in technology (namely, technology with screens), the extension of the work day, and the general hustle of modern living, we no longer gather as frequently for meals. The connection to how our food is grown, and those who grow it, has been stretched thin, and in some cases even broken. Carson is hopeful that this is changing for the better, and can be something that Hamilton works toward achieving.
“I see the interest in food is growing,” Carson says. “People are seeking a real connection to the land, and to the place they call home. My hope is that we can live in a city that values place, that values food, and in return this will create communities that are healthier and awesome to live in.”
Below are several stops, past and future, on Hamilton Food Rides. The next rides are Saturday, July 22 (Mountain & West End), and Saturday, August 26 (East End). Follow Hamilton Food Rides on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for more information and interaction.
Some Hamilton Food Rides Stops:
- Neighbour 2 Neighbourhood – offers prepared foods and produce at a scaled, pay what you can model.
- Hill Street – a community garden with an interesting central focus for greater community engagement.
- McQuesten Community Farm - As part of an initiative to increase food security in the McQuesten area, the 2.25 acre urban farm creates a green space behind the former St. Helens school in the McQuesten Neighbourhood. Not only will this farm address the issue of securing a nutritious and sustainable food source for the community, but it will also create a positive change in the community by providing an outlet for citizens of all ages, adding economic value to the community, and fostering strong bonds between residents in McQuesten.