“I can’t fly, I ride my bike”: Daniel Farmer pedals for poverty
Daniel Farmer answered the phone in Towson, Md. He had biked there all the way from Newark — a trip of over 60 miles each way. These long cycling trips are typical for him, and they intertwine perfectly with his passion for the environment.
A junior majoring in environmental studies, Farmer is deeply concerned with how we treat our planet. He is also invested in the people who live on it.
“Service has been a huge part in my life from early on, it’s something that my parents really instilled in me,” Farmer says. “All of my double-digit birthday parties were service projects, starting at age 10 up until I stopped having birthday parties.”
Next week, Farmer will be spending spring break on his fourth alternative break service project. He has signed up for the spring break trips all three of his years at the university and has done one winter session trip as well.
However, the big trip that Farmer is currently preparing for is a service project in the form of a cross-country cycling trip. He is going with an organization called Bike and Build, a group dedicated to benefitting affordable housing charities.
In 2013, Farmer took a Bike and Build trip from Richmond, Va. to Philadelphia — a 600-mile trip. The group stopped at Habitat for Humanity shelters along the way to do service projects.
A counselor at his high school suggested the trip to him because Bike and Build was founded in Philadelphia and offered scholarships to high school students from the area. This cycling service trip introduced Farmer to his passion for cycling.
“The last time I’d ridden a bike up until I decided to train for [the 2013 ride] was probably 2008 or something like that,” Farmer says. “It’d been a really long time.”
Traveling isn’t new for Farmer — he has studied abroad twice. Fluent in Spanish, he went to Spain a few summers ago and spent his last semester in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
However, this trip will be Farmer’s first time trying to bike across the country. He says he has been waiting for this opportunity ever since his last Bike and Build ride.
After finals, Farmer will leave with the group from New Haven, Conn. and will travel to Half Moon Bay, Ca. He will be back in Delaware by the end of the summer in time for resident assistant (RA) training, as he is an RA in Sussex Hall.
“There’s a Bike and Build tradition that when you start the trip, you dip your back tire in the Atlantic, and when everyone makes it across, you all go and dip your front tire in the Pacific,” Farmer says.
Farmer’s parents, while concerned for his safety, support his cycling — they ask only that he calls them when he arrives at his destination safely.
Farmer says he rides his bike to his home in Philadelphia a few times a semester. The 45-mile trip takes him about three and a half hours. As an experienced cyclist, he bikes every day now, regardless of bad weather.
“It worries a lot of people, it confuses a lot of others and it puts almost everyone in a state of awe,” Farmer says. “It is definitely dangerous and that is always something to consider, but hold your own on the road and people will leave you alone.”
Farmer dreams of one day starting an outdoor education school with a component of service and a way to teach children “how to serve the Earth.”
“A career will not be anything that hinders the amount of service that I do or the opportunities that I take to engage in it,” Farmer says.
Although the Bike and Build organization is mainly for youths, Farmer says he hopes to stay connected with it in the future.
“It is part of the organization’s mission to serve young adults, so eventually you age out,” Farmer said. “Perhaps at some point I would lead one of the trips, that is a possibility, and it’s been brought up to me before by people in the organization.”
Whatever Farmer does, he will always have his bike with him.
“I will definitely always be on my bike,” Farmer says. “I often tell people that since I can’t fly, I ride my bike.”