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Bicyclists promote earth-friendly transportation and agriculture in Chambersburg

June 26, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Pedaling what they preach, the EarthQuaker Bike Trip rolled into Wilson College on Wednesday to raise awareness about alternatives to fossil fuels and sustainable agriculture.

"We're hoping to raise awareness about ways of travel that don't involve petroleum, and things like this community-supported agriculture farm where folks can get really great food right here in their backyard, support local industry and eat healthy," said Carl Magruder of Grass Valley, Calif., one of the seven Quakers riding from Philadelphia to Johnstown, Pa.

The EarthQuakers stopped at the Fulton Center for Sustainable Living at Wilson College to help fellow Quaker and farm manager Eric Benner tend some of the acreage.

Bill Holcombe, a retired executive from Brookfield, Conn., and Rebecca Mitchell, a massage therapist from Kennett Square, Pa., were weeding the thyme and oregano plants in one garden.

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"We're biking our talk. Cut emissions," Mitchell said of her participation in the ride, which began Friday in Philadelphia. She and the others will also be attending the Friends General Conference in Johnstown when they arrive there Saturday.

Before using a "solar-powered clothes dryer" -- a clothesline -- Magruder and Kristina Keefe-Perry of Rochester, N.Y., talked about the Quaker philosophy of preaching what they practice.

"This is really joyful," said Holcombe, who learned of the trip through the Quaker Earth Care Witness newsletter. He said the trip has shown him "opportunities for good works."

"Preach the Gospel at all times and, when necessary, use words," Magruder said, citing a perhaps apocryphal statement by St. Francis of Assisi.

Social justice and earth-care issues were once viewed as separate, but are actually interwoven, Magruder said. They cited the increased use of biofuels raising the price of corn, thus raising the price of tortillas in Mexico with the possible unintended consequence of more illegal immigration by people seeking better wages in this country.

"People ask why is health food so expensive ... They should ask why is cheap food so cheap," said Keefe-Perry. The relatively cheap price of food does not reflect the costs of farm subsidies, immigrant labor and environmental clean-ups which are eventually borne by consumers and taxpayers, she said.

"Sustainable agriculture that takes care of the soil, that builds the soil, that values its workers," she said, bears those costs.

"If you live in Pennsylvania, you've got a real opportunity to eat locally that the people in Alaska don't have," Magruder said. Most of the food at supermarkets is "marinated in diesel oil" having been shipped hundreds, if not thousands of miles from field to shelf, he said.

About 100 people subscribe to the Fulton Farm, getting their pick of 70 vegetables grown there, Benner said. About 80 subscribers come in each week to pick up food, he said.

The most unusual vegetable grown at the farm, Benner said, is probably the kohlrabi, a type of Asian beet that can be eaten raw, stir-fried or prepared in a number of other ways.

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