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Thinking Globally, Eating Locally

Tue Aug 2, 2005 Miss Vicky 

I first read about the 100 Mile Diet over on Treehugger and thought it was a pretty interesting concept.

Here's the deal: these two folks in BC are trying hard to limit their food intake to stuff grown and produced within 100 miles of where they live. You can read about some of their adventures here. Big stumbling blocks for them, apparently, are grains (wheat, rice, etc, a necessary staple) and sugar. Oh, and cost.

Not sure it's a challenge I want to take, but it has gotten me thinking about my eating and shopping habits. As much as I love the Parkdale Market, you need to make sure you're buying local, as a stunning amount of produce there is imported. It's a bit better now that we're in the midst of the growing season, but back in the spring pickings were pretty slim. We go to Sasloves, the butcher on Wellington West, for organic and hormone-free meat.... I guess we'll have to ask where it's from. Perhaps I'll report on this later.

Ottawa's Food Security Council has a Buy Local Food guide. There is an online version, but you can pick up a printed copy at a number of locations in the city, like Bridgehead or the Mountain Equipment Co-op. The guide includes information on local farmer's markets, but also on the farms themselves - location, hours, whether the stuff's organic, and so on. There's also a handy Harvest Chart, so you know what's fresh when. The only drawback - it covers this side of the river only. I can imagine there are plenty of places in the Outaouais as well. For example, Bryson Farms has a booth in the Parkdale Market (starting in August) and, if I recall correctly, has a delivery service as well.

You don't just get fresher, better-tasting food when you buy local. You're supporting the local economy. And you're helping reduce the amount of fossil fuels we use up in transporting food to Ottawa (according to the OFSC, the average meal travels up to 2400 km in order to reach your table!), not to mention the amount of packaging. Even if you're not up to the full 100 Mile Diet, making small chances to your shopping habits can really make a difference.

Some people were moved to reply

The Webgeek Aug 3, 2005 10:25 AM said:

I think another huge stumbling block, in these parts would be winter. You'd really have to go on a canning frenzy to keep to that limit.

As you said, the Markets are only just getting local produce now. I know a few booths in the byward market brought in local stuff earlier, but we do have a pretty short growing season. Even if it's not within the 100 mile limit, I at least look for Canadian origins, especially with fruit.

Special Patrol Group Aug 3, 2005 01:02 PM said:

Granted, it certainly would be difficult to really follow this kind of DIET. But it's such a great idea and so positive on so many levels.
It's always good to try even the smallest things to make a difference to our consumer habits.
This year it has really paid off to grow our own little herb garden and just take them from the porch, clean them and add them to our food.
No pesticides, no transportation required, no non-sense. And our Rosemary, Lemon-thyme and Tarragon are more delicious and satisfying just because we grew it ourselves. Yummmy .

Dammit I wish I had a REAL garden!! =)

Miss Vicky Aug 3, 2005 01:17 PM said:

If we get more than one pumpkin from ours, SPG, don't be surprised if one shows up on your doorstep!

Special Patrol Group Aug 3, 2005 04:37 PM said:

Woohooo Pumpkins!!

Flanders Aug 4, 2005 09:38 AM said:

The sooner more people get into this idea, the better. It drives me crazy that a generation of kids is growing up that sees nothing unusual about eating strawbwerries in January...on top of all the environmental concerns, it just fosters a general lack of awareness about how the planet works.

Mandos Aug 4, 2005 08:43 PM said:

Umm, where do we grow coconuts in a hundred miles of Ottawa? Or mangoes? Or even chilis? Don't tell me there's a lychee plantation somewhere in Pembroke or something.

The Webgeek Aug 4, 2005 11:03 PM said:

Puhlease....

I thought everyone knew about the Lychee fields in Pembroke.

What was really hard to find were the rice paddies they've set up in the Diefenbunker.

Mandos Aug 5, 2005 12:17 AM said:

Also I'm not 100% sure of the science behind this. It *looks* horrible to truck things, but growing and/or storing food here in winter may be worse than transporting it here, energy-wise.

Do note that people solved this problem by eating meat. I mean, meat is one way of storing vegetables for the winter...

liss76 Aug 11, 2005 11:13 AM said:

Bryson does have a delivery service--we've been using it since May (though recently suspended it until October, as the three market stalls that actually sell "local" produce now have enough variety that I can buy there). They have a good selection of winter produce grown in greenhouses, etc--their salad greens are to die for.

We will be starting back with them for the late fall-early spring months when local is hard to find.

And home canning is surprisingly easy. If you are organized, one afternoon of work can get you enough string beans and carrots to last the winter months. An evening of work will result in enough pickles for two years (spoken from experience). I made 7.5 litres of jam on one Sunday afternoon in July. Remember, too, that a great deal of produce need not be canned at all--fruit freezes easily, as do many vegetables (though these will require blanching).

Eating local is only as difficult as you make it, really. I don't think I'd ever go to as much of an extreme as the BC couple, but I would guesstimate that I could easily convert 80% of our year-round food consumption to local foods without too much effort.

amckay Aug 15, 2005 05:21 PM said:

What the Schleck is a couple in BC doing measuring something in miles? Dear me, Pierre Trudeau must be rolling over in his grave!

Home canning is indeed easy, but please play safe! Be sure to read these.

And it's now that time of year again! Last year we bought a jumbo-sized pressure-canner at Preston Hardware (thank goodness for Italian immigrants - so many awesome things there!) so doing the processing is much faster than it used to be.

BTW, Vermont and New York are much closer than BC and Alberta. "Grown in Canada" does not necessarily make it local by any stretch.

And if anyone needs a line on good locally-grown beef, for 5 or so years we've been getting ours from a former cow-orker (ha, ha!) who has turned his hobby farm into a nice retirement, and it's awesome!

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