For most of us, the word that immediately comes to mind after the word “farm” is “tractor”.
While Mark and Gina Tant, the owners of Tant Hill Farm, still use traditional heavy machinery for work, to get around the farm they have opted for a human-powered device.
“This thing came up at the same time we were buying our tractors and equipment—the biking idea came up as we were starting the farm,” Mark Tant said. “There’s another farm that uses bikes too … I remember thinking it makes total sense.”
Check out the Tant Hill Farm Facebook page for more great photos.
“It’s always been a dream of both of ours,” Mark said, describing his first forays into farming.
“Our kids are grown; the last one graduated college last year, so we left Nashville with the view of finding some land and we landed in the Chattanooga area”, he said. “We both have always felt like we wanted to get out, away from the city, and spend the rest of our lives living off the land,” he said. With self-sufficiency in mind, the Tants settled in Lafayette, GA.
“We didn’t know anything about farming,” he admits. “I left my job of 28 years as a biomedical technician. We knew a little bit about food, but how to grow it we learned over time. We didn’t even own a lawn mower when we started looking,” he said. “We just picked it up. It was just a natural part of what we were trying to accomplish by living off the land and growing our own farm.”
As the Tants became more familiar with farming, their biking plans formed as well. “We bought five bikes about four years ago from an auction—it was a big farming auction—and some of the farmers were standing around saying ‘who wants a bike?’,” Mark said, recalling that the farmers were anxious for the next lot in the sale. Mark bought the bikes, but never used them. “It’s been in the thinking stage for a while; we just didn’t make the move until this year. We’ve picked up two; we plan to pick up a couple more just to be able to use them in place of a four-wheeler,” he said.
Adding bikes into their daily routine has provided many benefits, starting with practicality and fuel savings. “There’ll be times when I might be back (on the other side of the farm) somewhere on a tractor, and then I’ve got to get back here. If the bike is ready to go, it’s a ten-times faster method. It’s also an efficiency thing; the property is graded down from 1000 feet to about 100, going from the back to the front is all downhill. I can fly from the back to the front, and get a little workout getting back up. Throughout the day, all that adds up,” he said, adding, “we do see this as conserving fuel for sure, and that is one of the benefits: saving on the fuel costs.”
Mark has found health benefits as well. “I like it because I had knee surgery about five years ago, and the doc said I could extend (the knee’s health) out based on how I use it, so the bike will help a lot on that front.”
Mark also enjoys knowing that biking around the farm helps them contribute to more sustainable agriculture. “We do have a view for land conservation,” he added, “so we like the idea of going light on the environmental Impact. The bikes will help with that.”
Check out the Tant Hill Farm website for recipes and more great photos
Small farms are at an interesting point, Mark said. While their numbers have decreased in recent years, the growth of community support has emboldened farmers to try new things. The benefits of incorporating biking on the farm have grown out of that freedom. “I am at the age right now—57, 58, 59—it’s the average age of small farmers and small land. We’re serious about finding partnerships for young people, about picking up this land and carrying it on.”
“Now, even that 58-year old owner sees the possibility that his land can be held in a way that is better for the rural community and even for the urban community. So not only are bicycles part of what we’re doing, but (it) seems like every year we’ve got something new going on.”
Mark reminded us that “Farmers are the real rock stars. We've been idolizing the wrong people for too long.” While they’re not likely to fill a stadium, we certainly think Mark and Gina Tant are rock stars for their innovative use of bikes for getting around on the farm. Incorporating cycling and other transportation options into your routine can bring you just as many benefits, regardless of how rural your surroundings are.
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