Sunday, October 29, 2006

IMPRINT: Lose emissions and keep the flavour

We all know our cars pollute, but we often forget that our food travels long distances too. A lot of our fresh food is shipped in from all over the world. Some call this “eating oil” when you consider that 80% of our produce in Ontario is shipped in from outside the province on planes and trucks. Corporate agribusiness has made it more financially appealing to grocers to buy from subsidized Californian producers and cheap Mexican farms rather than local farmers.

For the small rural Ontario farmer, it is very difficult to supply a supermarket. They expect you to provide them with their broccoli 365 days of the year. That’s the challenge and what’s putting Canadian farmers out of business. Often the only option is to sell to the sprawling cities which are hungry to gobble up this yummy fertile agriculture land and develop single family monster homes.

But you, yes YOU, can do something to help our suffering farmers in Canada. You can finally do something about those tonnes and tonnes of carbon weighing down your meals by going on the 100 Mile Diet (or the 160 km diet). This is an easy way to think about eating locally and actually helps lose weight as the diet involves lots of fresh produce with less processed foods. I’m not saying that you should have to give up olives from the Mediterranean, or French red wine, but buying only local produce and meat can reduce climate change and help the local community.

Local or not, another healthy diet is the Familiar Ingredients Diet. If you don’t know what an ingredient are, or even how to pronounce it, find a more natural substitute or make it yourself.

So how go about shedding your food emissions? You can start today by actively noticing where your products are coming from when shopping at the grocery store. In large supermarkets, it can difficult to know exactly where you’re your potatoes or boneless, skinless chicken breasts are coming from, in this case only buy products from Ontario or Canada. If you are having difficulties doing this, complain to the manager that you would like an improvement in the local selection of fresh food. You can do this in person, over the phone, or write an email/letter.

Of course the market is always an excellent source of local foods. The great thing about the market is it’s fun, cheap, uses much less packaging than a supermarket, and often you get meet the farmers and their families directly and ask questions about your food.

Or, if you have a green thumb, use it, and grow your own vegetables. Encourage others to make use of green urban areas and organize a community garden, even if it’s just between you and your immediate neighbours.

But I think one of the best options for eating locally is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). CSA is a relatively new socio-economic model of food production and sales, aimed at supporting local farmers. There are already over 200 CSAs in Canada, most close to big cities. CSA is a risk venture by the farmer and the consumer as people buy a share in the farm in the spring and then the farmers do their best to grow/raise the food for the CSA members. It’s about providing a direction connection between the farmer and the consumer. You’ll get a sense that there are “your” farmer, same as you have a doctor or a dentist.

Each week the farmer bundles up a variety of fresh food and makes a basket for the member. And the cost is actually comparable to what’s offered at Sobey’s. Some CSAs delivery directly, or bring to a general meeting place, or some small farms as people to come to the farm for pick-up. Buying local is more than just produce, and protecting the land, it’s about building community. Many CSA’s have several barbecue’s and get together to thank their members for their support. Children can come to the farms and help pick cherry tomatoes. You can ask for special orders, tips on preserving, recipes, and the list goes on.

Unfortunately it’s getting close to the end of the growing season in the area, so research a CSA now for next spring. This may involve actually talking to farmers and getting a sense of who they are, as many don’t even have webpages.

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