Kitchener-Waterloo: 100 Mile Dining
As environmental issues create awareness of the high cost of transporting our food from distant farms, even from other continents, a new movement has begun to encourage consumption of locally-grown foods. The added benefit is that items are picked closer to their peak of freshness, enhancing taste, texture, and nutrition, and have had less time to spoil increasing shelf life in your kitchen. This spawned a book, "The 100-Mile Diet," a memoir by a Kitsilano; Vancouver couple who, for a year, ate only what was grown, raised or fished within a 100-mile (160 kilometres) radius of their home.
Most people do not realize that vegetables is the spring and fall come from the southern US, and winter fruits and vegetables often from South America or Australia, which lie in the southern hemisphere. Most garlic bought in Canada is not grown here, but is grown, packed and processed in China. Frozen fish are often caught in the Pacific off China and Russia, and repackaged in Canada entitling them to a "Made in Canada" label (announced Federal labeling rules changes will take effect after 2009, will require labels to note where most of the food cam from, not where most of the "value" was created)
For at least several months of the year, locally grown produce can be bought fresh at the local supermarket, farmers market, or farm stands. Many items store well (apples, grains, legumes, and cabbage), or freeze well. Many other items are grown year round (beef, pork, chicken, eggs) or can be fished year-round (in many regions of Canada), or are grown in local greenhouses.
Of course selections of "100 Mile Foods" are going to be better in lush regions like southern BC, the Okanagan, and the southern Ontario breadbasket. But the other regions of Canada still offer a good selection of offerings, even if the 100 Mile range may need to e extended a bit, for example in portions of northern Ontario, and in Newfoundland where flat, lush, arable land is in more limited supply. Most regions offer locally grown fruits & vegetables, honey, mushrooms, grains, legumes, meats and fish. Even your beverages, including fruit juices, artisan/craft beer, wine, and even liquor may be locally manufactured from local raw materials (you may need to ask around!)
Of course some items are not grown in your community, or anywhere in Canada for that matter: coffee, rice, olives (and olive oil), tropical fruits (bananas, coconuts, mangos, pineapples, etc), and sugar (bane sugar anyway, since beet sugar is grown in the prairies). Strict adherence to the 100 Mile Diet may require some sacrifices, but for more moderate adherence, general compliance might be a more reasonable goal.
When shopping at the local grocery store, you'll likely get the lowest cost produce, even if it's grown halfway around the world and shipped or flown in. At the local farmers market you will fare better, at least in season. In the off-season, stalls at farmers markets may often have non-local product in order to stay in business year-round and not lose a prized location/stand in the market. The biggest advantage of farmers markets is that the farms can have their own stands and you can buy organically-grown fruits, vegetables, and meats that are produced in too-small volume to be of interest to the large grocery chains, which need to stock 100 stores or more within the geographic range of single weekly .newspaper sales flyer.
Some detractors might argue that there is no real energy efficiency gained with the 100 Mile Diet., since large truck (or ship or plane) is more efficient per kilo of food than a small truck or van a farmer might use, and that the commercial transport is likely making its return trip loaded with another cargo, while the farmer will make the return trip empty.