For Mud, Bikes, Beer and Barns: Going to Market with Adam McGrath
Our favorite pro-turned-farmer Adam McGrath is back for another season of harvesting both crops and points.
by Adam McGrath
’Cross Season is upon us. This seems funny to me since technically its still summer, and growing up, this sport occupied my fall and early winter, while summer was still for swimming. Not here in Washington: Everyone gets the ’cross bug in June, and come the first week in September, it’s game on. It also seems funny to me because in my current life, summer is for farming, and, well, I’m still trying to wrap up that season and trust me, I’m still plenty busy with that. So I thought I would share what I’ve been busy with, and all the developments of this year’s growing season (what most of you call skinny tire spando time, or balloon tire shred time).
Many off-season developments that have nothing to do with bikes happened once the ’cross bikes got hung up in the rafters. I’m still a junior at the game of life, as I wrote last year, but I’ve really made some good strides this year, and next season it looks like I’ll be upgrading to Junior X (I hope some mtb’rs out there get that one). In my down-time I’ve managed to convert my diesel pickup truck into a two-tank veggie-oil-burnin’ machine, raised 180 chickens and butchered over half, plus now we have a new egg-laying hens just in time for the daylight shift. I also managed to put up between two and three acres of hay by hand with the scythe, learned to stack 22 bales of straw in a pickup, built three new chicken hoop coops, and planted another few dozen or so perennial plants. Intensively grazed four acres with donkey and chicken, built composts piles big enough to be run ups, and have been sleeping in a tent since April. Plus, there’s always the donkeys and working with them, but we’ll revisit that topic later this season.
But least not forget about my personal secret garden. When I’m not too busy homesteading I sneak away to my own special place where strange fibers, perennial friends and hair brain ideas of suffering grow, the cycling garden! My first spring crop was the Steve Fisher variety. He was the first crop up and signed on again as my partner for bigger yields of muddy bike contests. Next sign of life was the blossoms from the Raleigh tree. That tree has just finished fruiting and we recently harvest new RXC Pros. As the weather warmed further, it was time to plant the cockpit crop. We thought we’d try a local variety this season, from just across the water. Low and behold, the FSA fields fertilized by Mike L, produced heads of bars, leafy stems, hearty posts, juicy cranks and mouth watering headsets. Moving later into the season, lots of things in the garden need support, so some friends from Colorado with the best bicycle trellising came in with Feedback Sports Stands. And as all you gardeners know, you’re not much with proper gloves, footwear and protection and this season my friend Jim came by and delivered all the Giro gear to get the job done. Then there are always those slow to mature crops, you worry they might not make it, but they end up being show stoppers. This year’s garden show-stoppers have to be the TRP Brakes. With all this exciting produce coming about, what else to do but go to market? And our market booth is looking “so hot right now” with help from the fine folks over at JL Velo. Our kits are looking great and we’re now just putting together the final pieces to get to market.
Alas, not everything can go perfect in your fields. The far far wheel field in this seasons garden went rather fallow. So what does any good grower do in a time of need? Talk to other growers, of course. So we got in touch with fellow bike farmer (and former CXM editor) Josh Liberles and this season he just so happened to be trying out a new seed trial in his wheel field. His start-up seed trial was coming around rather nice, and now he is turning it into a new focus for his bike farm. HiFi wheels is now his business and one of his main crops. He’s been incredibly helpful and has come on to get us rolling and co-sponsor our Raleigh garden.
All funny stuff aside, bikes really are my secret garden. They keep me balanced and help me motivate to carry on. In all honesty, running the team has some parallels with running a market garden, and that’s just one of the things I relate to most right now. I’m really excited the off-season work has paid off with the fruition of the Raleigh/HiFi team. Everyone else that is supporting the team are old friends of mine. They have been helping me out for a long time and each of them has made a good contribution to ’cross at some level. Without their help, I would not be able to do this season or hold onto the farm and do my part in preserving food security and ethical land management.
Just like every garden creates opportunities outside of itself, the bike garden has done just the same this year. Its shown me that I would really like to do a bit more writing, and with the help of the fine folks here at Cyclocross Magazine, we’ve struck up a deal to have three columns a month coming in from Steve and I. It has also provided me with another excuse to simply ride a little bit more, which during a busy stressful farm season can be just what I need to take the edge off.
As the end of this summer nears, I know the rains will return, the races will get muddier, and a new season will be rolling in at the farm. It will be time to revisit the bike garden every week, but this time around for maintenance and inspiration, instead of sowing and harvesting. I hope everyone had a good growing season too, now lets get to market!
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