As Mitch Morrison, organizer of Tour de Farm New Jersey, knows, Hunterdon County is a breathtaking blend of rolling hills, quiet farms and green landscape.
Having biked across the United States four times and been biking for 52 years, he said, “I can say it and in my heart and soul I believe Northwest Jersey is one of the most gorgeous places to bicycle in the world.”
For the first time this year, Hunterdon County is coming to Tour de Farm New Jersey, a collection of three biking tours across Sussex, Warren and now Hunterdon counties that brings bikers to local farms along the ride.
However, this tour isn’t just about wandering the countryside. It’s about taking the sunglasses off and showing bicyclists where their food comes from and introducing them to the farmers that create it, following a dramatic trend in how people think about their food.
“People are getting more curious about what’s being put into their bodies,” said Morrison. “The purpose of the tour is to introduce people to the farmers who serve them.”
As Morrison explained, very few people have spoken to a farmer or visited a farm, so with this tour, they get to finally see the produce, animals and what goes on behind grocery walls.
Sparta’s Donna Fell, who participated in the Warren County tour last year and will be registering for this year’s tour, said that she loved learning about each farm and talking to the farmers about how they’re making their living. Plus, she said that she learned there were many more local farms than she thought.
A five-year recreational biker who has done several New York City tours with Transportation Alternatives, Fell said that even though she enjoyed the Weekend Warrior tour very much, it was a hard course.
“I found it challenging because of the hills and I am used to riding in the city, which is flat,” she said.
Morrison stresses that although the tour can be challenging, it isn’t just for experienced riders, as 20 miles isn’t a particularly high mileage for biking.
Besides checking out the farm grounds, bicyclists also sample local farm products, such as the short-rib ravioli that Lou Tommaso of LL Pittenger Farm in Andover plans to offer this year in a partnership with Nicola’s Fresca Pasta of Kenilworth at the Sussex County tour. The farm has been raising beef, pork, chicken, turkey, lamb and eggs — most of which are sold directly to the consumer — for the past 12 years.
Tommaso has participated in similar events in the past, but he said that last year’s Tour de Farm, his first, brought him more business than eight to 10 other events that he has done collectively. Plus, he said, “It was the single event that I have done that I have gotten the most recognition from old and new customers following the tour.”
LL Pittenger Farm wasn’t the only one to have lasting success thanks to Tour de Farm. Another such farm was Bear’s Den Alpacas, which sold wool products at Tour de Farm of Warren County and then had bicyclists come back at Christmastime to purchase gifts.
However, Tour de Farm wasn’t always the popular outdoor event that it is now. Morrison said that there has been a “dramatic expansion,” as there are now three tours in its third year.
“Frankly, we could have done seven tours, but this year we went from one tour to three,” said Morrison.
During the first year, about 100 total riders roamed Northwest Jersey on the tour, which then exploded to 650 in the second year with 200 being turned away for logistical purposes. So far, 150 tickets have been sold for Hunterdon’s tour, which Morrison said may be capped at 400.
The year’s Hunterdon County tour will begin with a farm-fresh locally sourced breakfast provided by tour organizers at South Hunterdon Regional High School in West Amwell from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 2. Then, Hunterdon riders will set off for the 81-mile Extreme Tour with 4,000 feet of elevation at 9 a.m. or the 20-mile Weekend Warrior Tour with 1,200 feet of elevation at 10 a.m.
Participants are encouraged to bring cash to purchase products at the farm stops, which are Fulper Farms, Woodsedge Wool Farm, Headquarters Farm, Tullamore Farms, Villa Milagro Vineyards, Bobolink Dairy Farm, Philips Farm, Humdinger Alpacas, Fields Without Fences and the Sugar Maple Jerseys Farm. Tour organizers will transport purchases back to South Hunterdon Regional High School in the afternoon for the participants, or they can bring their own backpacks.
Until June 1, early-bird registration prices are in effect for $55 for the tour, farm tastings and a T-shirt, which can be purchased on TourdeFarmNJ.com via Eventbrite. After June 1, prices will rise to $65.
Following the tour, a Farm to Fork celebration three-course dinner will take place at Tullamore Farm at 3:30 p.m. and include plated first courses such as New Jersey heirloom tomatoes and grilled peaches, an entrée buffet including world-class grass-fed beef and roasted sweet potato salad with locally smoked bacon, and desserts such as peach and blueberry cobbler with oatmeal streusel and callebaut chocolate brownies.
Fell said, “The Farm to Fork dinner was amazing. They did a great job of feeding everyone health-conscious food in an elegant outdoor setting with wine and white tablecloths.”
Farm to Fork tickets are sold separately and can also be found on TourdeFarmNJ.com via Eventbrite for $150.
Tour de Farm New Jersey offers a quirky yet logical pairing — bicycling one of the most beautiful regions of the state while sampling some of the healthiest and tastiest food, bringing New Jerseyans to understand the purpose of buying local products.
“The necessity of buying local is to help support local agriculture,” said Tommaso. “The only way we can stay in business is to sell our products locally.”
TOUR DE FARM NJ – HUNTERDON
When: Sunday, Aug. 2 with breakfast from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., tours starting at 9 a.m. and 10 a.m.
Where: South Hunterdon Regional High School in West Amwell
Cost: $55 until June 1, then $65
Mileage: Hunterdon riders can set off for the 81-mile Extreme Tour at 4,000 feet elevation or the 20-mile Weekend Warrior Tour at 1,200 feet elevation
Farm to Fork Dinner: Takes place at Tullamore Farm at 3:30 p.m. for $150
Contact: Organizer Mitch Morrison at email@example.com