Food people tend to live large, especially if they’re in the industry. “Excess” starts to look normal when eating and imbibing are your full-time job, but we all discover at some point (sometimes too late) that constant indulgence isn’t sustainable. After years of excess, Craig Rogers is working to bring balance back into his life and into the food industry overall. He’s preaching from a mobile pulpit - his bicycle - and we’ve been converted.
“I was all about excess. I embraced that a little too enthusiastically,” Craig says. As owner of Border Springs Farm, he hosted regular wine-soaked “lambs and clams” after-parties at food festivals to showcase the sustainably-raised lamb that we feature on the menu at Café Provençal. Craig started putting on weight, and soon the former marathoner grew into a rotund shepherd as tasting, sipping, and traveling replaced running.
Then, a perfect storm of events washed over him.
First, his 80-year-old father had back surgery and Craig spent their annual father-son vacation at Red Sox spring training pushing Dad around in a wheelchair. “I felt an appreciation for how we take our mobility for granted as we get older,” Craig says. “I kept wondering how long the body can survive without moving.”
Then, famed food writer Josh Ozersky died - a shock for the industry and especially for Craig, who had spent time with him just a few months earlier.
Finally, a surprise trip to the emergency room for a skin ulcer went unexpectedly off kilter. A doctor stormed into the room with some surprise blood test results. “You didn’t tell me you were diabetic!” he wagged a finger at the shocked shepherd. “I had no idea,” Craig says. “I had all the telltale signs, but I was ignorant.”
Craig Rogers was 55. He realized it was time to get moving.
He quickly discovered that with the extra weight his knees couldn’t take the pounding of running; even walking hurt. “I just couldn’t see the path forward,” he says.
He decided to buy a bike – the cheapest comfort-style bike he could find. Craig’s journey began with a five-mile roll along a bike trail in Mount Airy, North Carolina. That was two years and 100 pounds ago. Now, Craig takes his bike with him whenever he travels, and he’s recruited us to ride along as part of Team Shepherd. It all began when Craig inspired Winery Marketing Director, Michael Kimball, to get up early after a long night of indulging at Border Springs’ annual chef retreat, Lambstock. Michael and Craig rode the Blue Ridge Parkway along with Rachel Martin from Boxwood Winery, Barboursville Sommelier Jason Tesauro, and Chuck and Diane Flynt of Foggy Ridge Cider.
That ride inspired an ongoing food, wine, and cycling partnership among Craig and our entire team. It’s a close friendship that strengthens every time the shepherd visits Williamsburg Winery. He and Winemaker Matthew Meyer have hosted wine dinners together at the James Beard House in New York and beyond. Craig, Matthew, and Michael have partnered on food and cycling events at festivals, including Euphoria and the Williamsburg Harvest Celebration. Michael even designed special Lambstock Cycling Club t-shirts for chefs who brought bikes to ride at that event.
You won’t be surprised to learn that Craig inspired our Cycling Club (we’ll explain more about that in another story). When you see the growing fleet of bikes congregating in our bike racks, and the swelling group of cyclists who roll out on our Sunday morning rides, you know that they are all part of Team Shepherd. Whether they realize it or not, all our riders have been motivated by Craig.
“For me, it’s about not making any excuses and getting out every day,” Rogers says. “And it’s easier to do something every day if you love it.”
These days, a slimmed-down Craig can ride with the best of them, but he welcomes anyone to his growing cycling flock. He’s just as happy to lead a beginner on their first short trip on a cruiser bike as he is to fight the mountains on a day-long century ride. Look for his friendly smile at our Sunday morning rides whenever he’s in town. Craig will be in the green and yellow Border Springs Farm kit with the lambs on the cuffs. And he’ll gladly grab a burger and a glass of wine with the group afterwards. He knows he’s earned it.