Therese Teiber uses eggshells and water walls. Patsy and Kevin Ford keep a lot of fountains. Peter Schertz never wanted to put a fence around his garden, but it was the only way to keep the deer out.
Each Durango resident-gardener welcomed more than two dozen people onto their properties Saturday to showcase their plots and techniques. The crowd of younger families and older couples biked to each home along a 6-mile route from the banks of Junction Creek, through Animas City and to Oak Drive, just off Florida Road.
Some did it for the ride, others did it for the gardens. And for Darrin Parmenter, La Plata County director for the Colorado State University Extension Office, the 12th annual Tour de Farms embodies the spirit of Durango.
“A lot of folks try to garden,” he said. “And any reason to get people on a bike is a good thing.”
Parmenter, on his blue road bike, led the group of cyclists – stretching, at times, 100 yards along Durango city streets – joined by Lexie Stetson-Lee, executive director of The Garden Project of Southwest Colorado. The two worked together to organize this year’s Tour de Farms, which included two tours: a 20-mile route north of Durango and a 6-mile ride through the north part of the city.
“The long ride goes into spaces with incredible diversity,” Stetson-Lee said. “The short ride showcases how fun local foods are.”
Everyone on the 20-mile tour was wearing fluorescent, breathable and skin-tight biking suits, Parmenter said. The 6-mile crew was a bit more casual. Some towed strollers stuffed with kids. Others wore flannel. Travis Ward wore what appeared to be his hiking pants.
“I have a little garden and I wanted to ride around town,” he said. “I’ve done this for several years, I’m looking for some fresh ideas.”
Christy Schaerer said she rode the Tour de Farms for the third time this year in hopes of seeing “gardens that you don’t even know are there.” She once mountain-biked, and she has gardened all her life, Schaerer said.
“Watering systems are always interesting,” she said.
Diane and Gordon Maller don’t farm – “it’d be a battle,” Diane said, to garden where they live near Purgatory Resort. They rode the Tour de Farms “for the riding more than anything else,” Gordon said.
But the focus on exercise didn’t stop the Mallers from appreciating the work of each gardener they visited.
“Clearly, these are people respecting their environment and taking care of the land,” Gordon Maller said.
Chad Cheeney’s 1½-year-old daughter and 3½-year-old son were “pumped” for the ride – “they like the adventure,” he said. They’re a biking family, but they’ve also got a garden. Cheeney said he hopes one day to take it from a “practice garden” to a plot that can produce enough food for a full dinner.
Jami Thomas brought her 6- and 4-year-old boys to “give them more comfort and show what you can do on your own,” she said. “We do it, and all these people are doing it, too.”
Marye Jackson, who volunteers at the Ohana Kuleana Community Garden, said she hopes the riders are inspired by what they see growing around town.
“My hope is they stand back, look around and say, ‘I could do this in my backyard’,” she said. “Here’s a place for young families to grow and show their kids the natural world.”
Schertz said he hopes the people who visited his home garden steal some of his ideas and incorporate them into their own. As the crowd left, he invited each of them to come back.
It doesn’t matter when, he said. Just knock.