Our project is a digital documentary of the Tour de Farm: a cycling tour across the South of France stopping at organic farms along the way to learn about organic food and sustainable living. It's a documentary about an experiment in cultivating health. In addition to live updates, the final product will be a video documentary that captures this health pilgrimage.
Like the best tours, my story is full of highs and lows. It’s about peaks and valleys and how our greatest and worst moments tend to collide. The seeds of the Tour de Farm began in such a way.
Within 12 hours, I had received the best and worst news. A routine dermatology appointment turned into a long day in the emergency room where scans revealed a coconut-sized tumor in my side. My heart screeched to a halt when I heard “tumor”. Several years earlier, losing my father had started in a similar way, with the very same word.
On the way home from the ER, I got a call. “There’s an envelope here. It’s from Oxford.” The last few weeks had been filled with nervous anticipation as I started receiving application decisions from the graduate schools. I was shocked and thrilled to be accepted to Yale, Harvard, and Cambridge, but for some reason I couldn’t get the idea of Oxford out my head. Like a lovesick idiot, I checked the mail obsessively.
But as discussions of a biopsy procedure began, I knew I would be waiting for results of a different kind--results that could make all of my hard work and plans irrelevant. When I finally got up the courage to open the envelope, I quickly searched for key words and found them, “pleased to inform you…congratulations!!” My eyes filled with tears of both joy and fear. I was only 23 years old.
The tumor was removed, taking my right oblique muscles with it, and the pathology results seemed to promise that it should be gone for good. I was able to accept the offer and move to Oxford. It was there that I fell in love with cycling.
However, my health struggles were not quite over. The mesh that they used to replace my muscles had developed an infection and the doctors had found yet another development of melanoma. After several days of receiving the most potent antibiotics available intravenously, the infection still did not seem to be responding, so I went into surgery.
Recovery was excruciating. There seemed to be no end in sight. I knew that soon another surgery awaited me. It was in that moment, with tubes coming out of my side and a picc-line in my arm that two things came into focus:
1) I would have to be exceptionally vigilant in my pursuit of health.
2) Life is undeniably fragile, so it should be lived to its fullest…right now.
I had dreamed about cycling through the south of France and working on organic farms, but now I am determined. I want to grab my health and my life firmly with both hands, and more importantly, to document this pilgrimage to share with others.
The Tour de Farm is an experiment in cultivating health. When my dad was diagnosed, doctors gave him just a few months to live and unpromising treatment options. However, thanks to some radical, healthy changes in lifestyle my dad lived an incredible two and a half years beyond expectations. My father was a walking testament to the value of organic food, an active lifestyle and creating opportunities to live life to its fullest. These are the same values I will promote through the Tour de Farm. I believe that health is more than just the absence of cancer or sickness, and living is more than just preventing death. I believe that health is a way of life that can be cultivated. The mission of the Tour de Farm is to spread ideas that promote healthy, vibrant and sustainable living by producing the story of this health pilgrimage.
In the spirit of Lance Armstrong and the Tour de France, the Tour de Farm will be a 50-day cycling tour through France, stopping at organic farms along the way to volunteer and learn about sustainable living and organic food. I will be joined by my sister-in-law, Tiffany, as a cycling partner and production assistant.
While the 2012 Tour de France makes its way down the east side of France, we will be pedaling and farming our way across the south. The tour will commence in Nice and continue via ferry to Corsica, then on through Marseilles to Nimes, and down toward Foix. After traversing the infamous Raid Pyrénéen, we will continue up to Bordeaux before making our way to the finish line on the final day of the Tour de France in Paris. Since the location and quality of the ride will guide our route more than distance efficiency, just like competitors in the Tour de France, we will occasionally board our bikes on a train (or ferry) to get to the next great ride.
In addition to documenting the ride, we we also be documenting the organic farming. At four stages throughout the journey we will trade our cycling gloves for work gloves, volunteering at organic farms along the way as a part of the WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) Network. At the farms, we will be busy helping to tend gardens, orchards and animals, but we hope to cultivate more than fruits and vegetables. We also hope to cultivate greater familiarity with where our food comes from, awareness of what it means to live sustainably in terms of both our food and transportation, and practical ways to adapt these principles to our daily lives.
We will be packing ultra-light so that we can carry the most important thing: my camera. Armed with photo, audio and HD video equipment, we will be carrying everything necessary to capture and share this story as beautifully and effectively as possible. We can't wait to share it with you.
Please help us make it possible!!
- (25 days)