Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Making 100 Mile diet work for you

The week began with another round of food recalls, feature the ever-popular corporate lettuce. There's been a recall of Dole's bagged lettuce salad because of fears of E. coli contamination. You can tell me that you pick up corporate bagged salads at the grocery store because they are more convenient than going to the farmer's market for mixed greens. I don't know, I find bloody diarrhea pretty inconvenient.

There has been a recall of Flying Swallow brand Tender Bamboo Shoots because they contain sulphites which have not listed on the ingredients. This is a serious concern for those that have allergies to sulphites. Quite frankly, I hate canned bamboo shoots. I don't know why anyone would want waterlogged wood chips in their stir fry. Throw in some fresh julienned local turnips, parsnips, fennel or sunchokes if you want something crunchy and sweet.

Last week, a Crave reader posted this comment:
" I have been reading your blog for awhile now and I love it. I am also interested in a 100 mile diet, but one thing does bother me. I am curious about your thoughts on this. From reading your posts it sounds as though you do a lot of driving here, there and everywhere to obtain local food. If everyone who currently shops at a large grocery store were to suddenly start driving all over would that not sort of defeat the purpose of a 100 mile diet? Wouldn't it be nice if we could all have access to locally grown food in a central location?"

olleen, thanks for posting some food for thought. I appreciate that you're concerned with the impact of your consumer habits. I've pondered your comment through the weekend and here's some of my ramblings.
Well, first off, let's take your concern about the amount driving involved with a 100 mile diet for us here and put it on another angle. What would happen if everyone else in the world started shopping at big box stores that brought produce from all over the globe? What would happen if the rest of the planet started consuming our SUV diet?
The reality is that our SUV diet (whatever you want, whenever you want it for as cheap as you can possibly get it) and global corporate food system is not the norm for the rest of the world's population. Most of the world is still eating pretty local. Unfortunately, that is changing. There are pressures to impose global markets onto countries that want to protect their own agricultural industries. Some countries are even forced to take on a flood of cheap American produce under trade deals and as a condition of so-called debt initiatives, despite the fact that these countries are capable of growing these produce themselves. North American diet and the obese bag of health problems that comes with it is being transported all over the world.
There are now a number of recent studies looking at the impact of the SUV diet. Many of the hidden costs of an SUV diet are finally coming to light. There was a recent study done by the Texas Department of Transportation that looked at the impact of transporting goods. One of their findings was that "each heavy goods vehicle (like an 18 wheeler) causes the same amount of wear and tear on roads as 9,600 cars."
Guess who's paying for all that road work.

The 100 mile diet is more than just eating foods that are grown around you. It's about a shift in food culture and mindset. It's about being more mindful and aware of the food that we eat, where it comes from, who grew it, how it was grown and how it gets here. It's about being reconnected with food and appreciating the work and energy that it takes to get it to our plates. It's about not only change in eating but consumer habits. I agree with your concerns. A 100 mile diet that is carried out with SUV diet thinking is going to leave a significant footprint (but still I think smaller than a globally sourced SUV diet.)

Yes, at first glance, it looks like I'm driving from Duncan to Campbell River in order to stock my kitchen. The reality is that my food shopping habits are quite different now that I'm on the 100 mile diet. Here's some things I do to make 100 mile diet shopping work for me and keep my driving to a minimum:

1- Subscribe to a CSA produce box program - Throughout the summer, I pick up my organic produce box from Nanoose Edibles at the Nanaimo Sausage House (3081 Ross Road). While I'm there, I usually pick up my local eggs and cheese. The Nanaimo Sausage House also has a huge basket of Nanoose Edibles produce to sell for those that weren't able to sign up for the program. The produce arrives on Wednesday.
The box is usually all the veggies we need for the week. I will pick up a few odds and ends at the farmer's market if needed.

2- Buy in bulk from local farms - I buy much in bulk, from my berries to meat. In the beginning of the season, I went off a few times to get large batches of strawberries and blueberries from farms in the south end of Nanaimo. I didn't make special trips to just go out for berries. I was either at that end of town anyways or made an afternoon or morning of it with trips also to other farms, the farmer's market and Hazelwood herb farms to pick up other items. Often, I kidnapped a couple of friends to come out with me so they could also get their berry stash. All I needed were a couple of trips and now my freezer is filled with strawberries and blueberries and my pantry is full of wonderful low-sugar fruit jam to last me all until next berry season.
My meats are from a variety of local sources and often bought in bulk for the freezer. I only have one small 5 cubic foot freezer but there's a high rotation of meats in and out throughout the year. Right now, I'm finishing off the last of my beef and pork that I bought up last spring and am waiting for a shipment of local lamb and bison Most of my meat is bought straight from the farmer. It's more affordable to buy in bulk and directly from the farmer. I also bought a couple of whole halibuts and had them cut up into steaks and shoved those into the freezer too.
There are some that are going to balk at the idea of frozen meats. If they're packed properly and in a good freezer they're fine. I find frozen properly raised local meat far superior to fresh factory farmed meat and they also offer cuts and parts that I can't get from the grocery store.
Piper's Meats sells a selection of fresh local meats from beef to rabbits. Farmer's markets are another great source for local meats and eggs and often those farmers are more than happy work out a large order with you

3- Consolidate your food trips - As mentioned above, plan to pick up stuff from a bunch of different farms in an area or swing by when you happen to be in the neighbourhood. For example, if you happen to be in the north end of town, instead of turning to the big box store for produce, turn the other way up Aulds Road and swing by Compassion Farms on Fernmar Road and fill your trunk with greens and winter squashes.
Say you're over at Westwood Lake or Mt. Benson for bike ride or trail run, head down to Westwood Orchard for some great local apples. If it happens to be a Saturday, head down to Gary Argyle's farm at
2403 Maxey Road off of E.Wellington Road. Head back into the city via E. Wellington and instead of going to the big-box store for your meats, swoop over to Piper's Meats on Bowen Road for some local flesh. Maybe just swing by the Shady Mile Farm Mart to pick up some local meats and produce.

4- Form a buying club - This is an extension of the buy in bulk idea. Team up with a couple of friends and buy up a lamb, side of beef, half a pig or shipment of island bison straight from the farmer. Buying local meat in this manner is more affordable and provides you with a freezer filled with a variety of meats. Often the farmers are more than happy to rendevous with you as they make other deliveries to get your order to you. At most it's one trip to the farm and then you and your friends have your flesh for the season, if not the year.
The buying club can evolve into the hub of your food community. I've talked to some who say that's it's like having a team of personal shoppers out there for you. Individual members can pick up enough for everyone else in the club in their trips out the farm. They trade information and recipes, get together for canning sessions, have potlucks and weekly cooking sessions, create a support group and resource bank for each other.

5- Carpool - Shove everyone into the car on Sunday morning and head over to the Cedar Farmer's Market. Offer friends and co-workers who don't have cars a ride. They'll really appreciate it!

6- Don't drive - Walk, bike or roller blade to the Nanaimo Farmer's Market on Friday. I have a green folding cart that I bring with me that saves my back from further damage. This past weekend, I walked down to the ferry to go to Gabriola Island for their farmer's market and fall fair. The market is about a 10 minute walk from the terminal and there were plenty of local farmers selling their produce. It's a great alternative to those who can't make it to the Friday market at Nanaimo's downtown.

7- Grow your own food. Right now it's the beginning of winter veggie garden. We're in the perfect climate for it and there's no bugs or weeds to deal with. My winter veggie garden keeps me pretty happy with beets, winter greens (kale, gai lan, bok choy, spinach, brussel sprouts) and lettuce. I'm also planning to plant another round of garlic. All the seeds and seedlings are from local growers so it's really a 100 mile garden!

There's a listing of local farmers, food vendors, farm markets and farmer's markets on the 100 Mile Diet Nanaimo site.

It comes down to you tinkering and evolving your 100 mile diet consumer habits so it works for you and and the environment. Some things may work better for you than others. Hopefully these ideas will provide a starting point for folks are unsure about how to move towards a more local food-based diet.

Colleen, to answer your final question, there is a farmer's showcase on October 20th. This event is bringing together 50 vendors (almost all of them farmers and food producers) from this area to showcase and sell their local food delights to folks like you. I will also be there on my soapbox ranting and raving to anyone who wants to listen. Hopefully, this won't be a one time event but a catalyst for more local foods venues.

I think as consumers, we just have to get enough of us buying local foods and to pressure our grocery stores to start bringing in more real local (meaning , island grown for us) products. If they don't, we need to stand by our guns and put our money where our mouth is. We need to push grocery stores, restaurants institutions and government towards domestic fair trade with our farmers.

I actually don't want local foods in only one centralized location. I want island grown foods everywhere! I want to see it on all the grocery stores. I want to see more farmer's markets. I would love to see a Nanaimo farmer's market that serves the locals and local farmer's needs, not just for the cruise ship tourists. I want to see island grown foods on restaurant menus and highlighted proudly as such. I want to see island grown foods in our school systems, in hospitals and made available to lower income people. I want to see a thriving local agriculture and food community that is being encouraged and supported by the people in a sincere and mindful manner.

I also want my own herd of alpacas but that's another story...

Have a great week and happy eating!

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