The term sustainability has been devalued over the past decade - due in large part to its use as a marketing slogan rather than an actual aspiration. It is refreshing, then, to experience a group of people who not only live a truly sustainable lifestyle, but who also pass that knowledge and experience on to the next generation.
A few months ago, I had the opportunity to deliver our new bike model – the Big Fat Dummy - to Ecuador for use on a sustainable organic farm owned by the Dammer family. Three brothers and their families work collaboratively to operate Nahaul, a farm and school of outdoor education. Their goal is to manage a self-sufficient farm that creates minimal environmental impact. Their homes are made from materials harvested from their land and they actively incorporate things like composting toilets and solar power to get as close as they can to full self-sufficiency and true sustainability Organic waste is composted and integrated into their farming operation. It’s really inspiring stuff.
The farm itself serves multiple purposes. One of these is to create training and job opportunities for the rural community by teaching the concepts of permaculture. Eight years ago, they started the first CSA in Ecuador which includes vegetables, eggs, cheese, yogurt and meats raised on the farm. They also integrate the farm into their outdoor education program where students live, study, and work between expeditions that include bikepacking, whitewater rafting, and mountaineering.
Big Fat Dummy approved roads.
One of the main reasons we developed the Big Fat Dummy was to challenge people to use their vehicles less and do more by bike. The BFD takes utility to the next level by enabling you to haul more shit (literally in this case) over rough terrain. The ultimate bike tractor!
So, why bring the bike all the way to Ecuador? That question came up the night Mathias and Nicole invited me to their home for dinner. Even though I had spent only one day on the farm, I knew they were just the right people to validate the potential of the new Surly Utility Vehicle. I had a good feeling they would push the limits of the bike and give us great feedback on where it shines. Many cyclists are continually looking for opportunities to avoid the car culture in which so many of us are trapped. The Big Fat Dummy is one more option for those who want to take the next step with a more versatile cargo bike. It is stable carrying a heavier load and begs you to ride over curbs or take that short cut through the woods. Whether you're carrying a curbside score of firewood, or off on a family off-road excursion, it’s up for the challenge if you are.
Delivery food scraps to the pigs. Photo Credit Michael Dammer
I recently followed up with the Dammers to get an update on how they were using the big rig. My favorite comment that they shared was that it’s the first tool out of the barn in the morning and the last one back in at night. They decided it needed to stay in the barn, a central and shared location, rather than devising a schedule to keep the bike at each home. Two common uses include hauling food scraps to the pigs and transporting veggies from the garden to each house. Frequently it’s used to load up tools for projects in different areas of the farm. Recently, they used it to haul adobe to finish a doorway of one of their homes. The adobe bricks are made with straw and soil placed in a form to dry. They could carry 4 at a time, weighing 15kg each. Use of their farm vehicle is estimated to have been cut by 50%.
Hauling 120 lbs. of Adobe blocks. Photo Credit Michael Dammer
The other use that is very common is transporting their kids around the farm. The Big Fat Dummy is the perfect school bus that can handle the stone cobbled roads, double track, and single-track that interconnects all areas of the hilly farm - without launching kids off the back. My kids and I have also preferred traveling by Dummy over the gas-guzzler parked in the driveway, so I understand the enthusiasm.
Gathering eggs. Photo Credit Michael Dammer
I have to say, it’s truly rewarding to see a Surly pushed to its limit and integrated so well into a family’s lifestyle – especially when that lifestyle involves making a smaller impact on the planet, and helping others to do the same. The Big Fat Dummy is one more option available that can help reduce the world's dependence on fuels other than burritos.
This custom wheel barrow has not seen much use since the Big Fat Dummy arrived.