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Tour De Coop 2014. Here we go.

I had heard about this bicycle tour last year. For whatever reason, I did not participate in the bike ride. The subject was interesting though. Tour Cooper Young and see how my neighbors are planting vegetable gardens, raising chickens and cultivating bee hives. After finding a poster at a local coffee shop, I decided to join the ride this year. Grow Memphis sponsored the event.

Tour De Coop Memphis

Let me first state, I am not the guy who grows ANY vegetables, chickens or bee’s or anything else. I am lucky if my flowers don’t die in the flower bed. That’s as much as I can grow. Flowers. But I was curious as to what others in Memphis were growing in their yards or lots.

(Note; any errors are mine alone. Shooting the video was difficult due to low flying planes. Just as EVERY host began to speak, a plane flew by.)

Saturday morning I biked my way to Wiseacre Brewery. The ride started at 8:00 a.m., so I made an effort to arrive early for the event. Reaching the parking lot of Wiseacre, I was the third person waiting for the tour to start. I later picked up my “Tour De Coop” shirt and a bottle of water. At 8:00 a.m., the temperature outside was cool, but that would later change.

Blog reader Frank approached me, and we talked about Memphis, bicycles, ect. Good talk. He was signed up for the long ride as well. (The “long ride” was 15 miles) I wondered how many people signed up were going out for the long ride. My best estimate was only 10% of the tour would participate in the long ride. From what I saw online, 135 people were signed up total. By my guess, 13 people would bike the 15 miles. I was wrong. When we were asked to line up for the long ride, my group alone totaled 14 people. And the other group had nearly the same amount of people for the long ride.

There was a question asked early in the event, “Does everyone have extra tubes, tools, ect. for a flat tire?” Maybe half of the riders had extra tubes. (P.S.A. PLEASE carry an extra tube, mobile air pump and the tools to change a flat tire. Thank you.)

After our group was formed we followed our fearless leader Patrick to our first stop. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but we headed down the street. The first few gardens were located in the Binghampton neighborhood. Big empty lots were turned into vegetable gardens. Excellent. Hear from the host about this urban garden here.

1 Tour de coop 2014 N. Merton

The second stop was just down the street.

2 Tour de coop 2014 McAdoo

The vegetables looked amazing. The host talked about how neighborhood children would weed and help with the garden, and would be paid for their work. Now that is a plan. The children benefit from working, the neighborhood benefits from the vegetables grown. I love it. Listen to the host talk about this urban garden here.

3 Tour de coop 2014 McAdoo 2

Our group moved further down the street to meet a man who raised chickens.

4 Tour de coop 2014 McAdoo 2nd stop

This was the first chicken coop I have viewed up close. The talk was very informative about raising chickens. “You won’t get rich by doing it, but you know what is in the eggs you are eating.” Some group members had questions, including myself. Most of the tour that day consisted of the host speaking about the garden / coop / bee hive for 10 minutes, then the group asked questions for about 10 minutes.

Moving on, we biked a short distance to find a large garden, including a bee hive.

5 Tour de coop 2014 4th stop bee hive

This garden included many fig trees as well. I was amazed how all of this was happening in Memphis and I knew nothing of it. Watch the video of the host explaining this large urban garden here.

Heading south, we biked down Hollywood past Southern. The next stop was a charter school. A garden was set up outside next to the school.

6 Tour de coop 2014 Elementary school

The school children helped with the garden. Teachers and neighbors received vegetables. As we were told, there was more than enough vegetables to go around for everyone. Although the vegetable garden was a success for the first year, the host said some mistakes were made. (This was the first time she had ever attempted to grow a vegetable garden.) “Use cages to grow your tomatoes. Without cages, it is difficult to gather the vegetables.” Lesson learned. If you look closely to the photo, you will notice stone benches created from leftover bricks in the background. Clever. Another fact I found troubling; the school cafeteria cannot use the vegetables grown in the garden due to government regulations. Something is clearly wrong. Vegetables grown by students should be first on the menu list in the school cafeteria. Maybe things will change in the future. Hear a teacher discuss the school garden here.

Our next stop was close. A large lot was used as a vegetable garden. Since the host wasn’t there to speak, the group talked about some of the newer local restaurants.

7 Tour de coop 2014 orange

I still couldn’t believe how I missed out on these public gardens in the past.

After a short stop, we headed west towards Stax.

8 Tour de coop 2014 stax

This would be the first time I have ventured into this neighborhood. I was surprised by how many homes looked like some houses in my neighborhood 38104. We pulled up to the next garden lot. Two men worked this lot in the spring, summer and fall. That is work. And the lot was large.

9 Tour de coop 2014

If you look closely to the above photo, dirt was dumped on the ground. Someone asked, “Why is there dirt dumped over there?” The answer? “We are doubling the size of our vegetable garden.” Wow. A group member also asked about the “food desert” in the neighborhood. Krogers was miles away. Many in the neighborhood went to the corner stores to purchase food items. Unfortunately, the small stores do not provide fresh vegetables. “We sell 60% of the food we grow. We give away 30% of the food, and 10% is stolen.” Interesting facts. The older gentleman said he has been growing his own food for his entire life. I kept hearing the same fact over and over on the tour, “These vegetables just taste better than store-bought food.” Watch the guys talk about growing vegetables on the plot of land here.

Moving on, we found another lot with vegetables.

11 Tour de coop 2014

The garden was small. The owners told us they were new to the “grow your own vegetables thing”. If you look closely to the photo above, the bricks are NOT staggered on top of one another as they should be. The woman went on to say they would change that in the near future.

11.1 Tour de coop 2014

There are so many different kinds of vegetables you can plant in such a small space. I found it fascinating. Listen to the host discussing her vegetables here.

By this time the temperature had climbed to the “uncomfortable level”. We headed back east and north to Cooper Young. We found a chicken coop and vegetable garden in this back yard.

12 Tour de coop 2014 Cooper Young

12.1 Tour de coop 2014 cooper young

As the host was talking about her chickens, I noticed the foreign accent. “You’re not from around here right?” She laughed. She was from the Netherlands. I asked if those in the Netherlands grew their own vegetables there. She said they did grow their own vegetables, but the growing season was so much shorter. She went on to say that here in Memphis, you could almost grow items year round. I also asked if the neighbors complained about the chickens. She said no, they didn’t complain. Someone asked where they received their chickens from. “Craigslist.” YOU CAN GET CHICKENS FROM CRAIGSLIST? Holy hell! Hear the owner talking about her chickens here.

Just around the corner we stopped in at Peabody Elementary School near Cooper and Young.

13 Tour de coop 2014 Cooper Young Peabody Elementary

The school kids help to plant vegetables, and incorporate the vegetables into their school studies. By the looks of it, there is plenty of space to grow various veggies. Watch a parent talk about the school garden here at youtube.com.

Just a short distance away, we moved on to First Congo Church. The funny thing is, I watched volunteers build the raised bed a while back. I was in the church parking lot for some festival (Which festival? I can’t remember.) We were told the volunteers had used an old wooden fence that had been discarded to build the raised garden.

14 Tour de coop 2014 First Congo Cooper young

(By the way, that is my bicycle parked in front of the garden.) Here is a secret. Behind that wooden fence in the background are bee hives. I never knew.

14.1 Tour de coop 2014 First Congo bee hives

You can see the hives from the basement. Fun fact. The host told us that bee hives are the second most vandalized property. Why would you want to vandalize a bee hive? Hear a host discuss the bee hives here.

After the tour, we travelled near Overton Park. Another chicken coop and garden.

15 Tour de coop 2014 Chicken coop

This coop was “mobile”, meaning it could be moved to fertilize different parts of the soil. Pretty smart.

15.1 Tour de coop 2014 Garden

Although the owner of the property was not present, we heard about the coop and garden from another individual.

And just down the street was another coop and garden.

16 Tour de coop 2014 Chicken coop

These chickens even have a fan. I found it interesting while on the tour that people had small coops and large coops and simple coops and fancy coops. All of the coops varied. Another thing I learned was that there were various kinds of chickens. I always thought “chickens were chickens”. Not so. And the chickens have their own personalities. Watch some of the chickens we saw at this “fancy coop” stop here. Some chickens had amusing names as you are about to see at the next and last stop.

Last stop on Tour De Coop. We pulled up to the house. It appeared that no one was home. Patrick, our tour leader, found the owner and we headed to the back of the house.

17 Tour de coop 2014 Chicken Coop

Here we discovered that the owner had named the chickens. Audrey Hepburn. Katherine Hepburn. Raquel Welch. This is crazy. But good crazy.

I do like the sign on the coop.

17.1 Tour de coop 2014

See the video from the coop owner here discussing his chickens.

After the last stop we headed into Overton Park towards the new bicycle arch.

Bicycle Arch Memphis

As we neared the arch, one mother on the tour yelled to her daughter riding next to her, “This is AWESOME!”. Bicycles bring that kind of behavior out in people. (The mother had been rather quiet for much of the tour.)

We finished the tour at the Wiseacre Brewery.

18 Tour de coop 2014 Wiseacre beer

Total time for the tour? 6 HOURS. Total miles? (From another tour participant) 19.2 miles. A few thoughts about the tour. I found the whole thing fascinating. As I told Patrick, “This is a whole ‘nother world.” I found the tour very inspiring. I had no clue this was happening right here in Memphis. Another thing. All of the hosts and home owners were very nice to us all. They answered our questions, and gave great talks about what they were doing in the community. Would I do the Tour De Coop again? Heck yeah! This is the best event I have been to in Memphis this year. I had no idea what to expect during the day, but I learned so much from the tour. If you have an interest in growing vegetables, cultivating bee hives or raising chickens, GO ON THIS TOUR NEXT YEAR. You don’t have to go on the long tour. There are shorter tours to ride in. But really, you should attend this tour next year. Fantastic!