Published Jul 31, 2012

Saving lives at RAGBRAI

By Patrick Burke

For the fourth consecutive year, Practical Farmers of Iowa set up a tent on the RAGBRAI route to provide complimentary refreshments to weary cyclists. This year, the heat was particularly brutal for riders — Where we set up between Sac City and Lake View, the air temperature was 102°, and it must have felt much hotter on the blacktop. Just a few miles from the stopping point for day two of RAGBRAI, many riders were dehydrated, overheated, and hungry — and thankful for free food and a shady spot to rest.

PFI's crowded RAGBRAI tent

PFI's crowded RAGBRAI tent

PFI staff members Teresa Opheim and Patrick Burke, along with PFI board member Mark Peterson, handed out fresh cherry tomatoes from Heavy Horses Farm (Boone); summer squash, cucumbers, and carrots from TableTop Farm (Nevada); and bread from The Cafe (Ames) with jam from Blue Gate Farm (Chariton) and Jumping Bean Farm (Ames). In addition to that free food, we were also selling delicious organic beef sticks from Early Morning Harvest (Panora).

Those who stopped seemed very grateful not just for the free food and ice water, but also the opportunity to chat about the diversity of Iowa agriculture. Many riders from outside Iowa — including as far away as Austria — were eager to learn about Practical Farmers of Iowa and the many types of farms represented in our diverse group. By the end of the day we had given out more than fifty pounds of free food, plus many gallons of ice water. Countless riders were helped to the finish line by healthy food grown in Iowa!

Special thanks to farmer Herb Auen and son Randy for allowing us to set up at their farm! Thanks also to member Ken Wise for recommending this location.