A ride with local flavor

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy hosts Bike and Bite

WHITTIER — The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy hosts a mobile celebration of local foods Aug. 13 with its first-ever Bike and Bite event.

The bicycle ride begins and ends at IATP headquarters in Whittier. In between, riders will plot their own course to nine points in Southwest and South neighborhoods, sampling local foods along the way.

The stops include restaurants that emphasize locally grown ingredients like Common Roots Café and Birchwood Café, farmers markets, a community garden and a food co-op. Free samples await participants at each checkpoint.

Registration for the event was beating expectations in late July with at least 100 riders signed-up to participate, said IATP Vice President for Program Ben Lilliston.

“It’s our 25th anniversary and we’re trying to think of different things that we can do that reflect the work we’re doing but [are] also fun and family friendly,” Lilliston said. “This just seemed like a great mix.”

IATP staffers who did a test run in July estimated hitting all nine stops would amount to a 20-mile ride. But mileage will vary; the map riders pick up at IATP in the morning will include all the stops plus some suggested routes, but riders are on their own until they reconvene at the IATP campus for an afternoon party with more food, drinks and entertainment.

Already known as a player in international trade, farm, food and environmental policy, the nonprofit is increasingly influencing local food policy right here in Minneapolis. Bike and Bite is a way to celebrate a milestone anniversary while also highlighting its expanding role in the local food scene, Lilliston said.

Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie founded IATP in 1986 while working as a trade policy analyst for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. At the time, a family farm crisis sparked by falling agricultural prices and mounting debt was pummeling rural communities across the Midwest.

Initially, IATP focused on analyzing global trade agreements to find their impact on state and federal farm policy, but its mission has grown and evolved since those early days.

“I think for the first 10 to 15 years of our history, a much higher percentage of our work was international, and we did very little local,” Lilliston said. “Really, over the last 10 years we’ve been scaling up our work locally and adding staff, and now I think we’re very active on the local level.”

That activity includes a successful 2007 effort to rewrite the city’s farmers market rules, creating a new category of mini markets that reach into underserved communities. Its Farm2School program connects small and medium-size agriculture producers to school districts, making it easier for school lunchrooms to put fresh, minimally processed foods on theirs menus.

“A part of [the 25th anniversary celebration] is to raise awareness of what we’re doing here and all these partners and the work that they’re doing — the work that’s being done together,” Lilliston said.

Those partners include other local players in the local foods movement, like The Wedge Co-op, another Bike and Bite checkpoint.

“A lot of them are real leaders in purchasing local food (and) supporting farmers,” Lilliston said.

If you go

Bike and Bite is 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Aug. 13. Rider check-in begins at 9 a.m. at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, 2105 1st Ave. S. Riders will reconvene at IATP afterward for a celebration.

The cost is $10 per rider, plus an optional additional donation to IATP. The event is free for riders age 12 or younger. Purchase tickets online at iatp.org.