Think Globally, Eat Locally; Select Nova Scotia; Eat Local First; Good Things Grow In Ontario. Good slogans. Catchy. But why?

Eating local food is another potential way to reduce our carbon footprint. If vegetables travel from California to my table then, in addition to the energy used to grow them and cook them, we also have the fuel used to transport them across the continent on our conscience. This is one of the cornerstones of the “eat local” movement.

It is spring and the bounty of the Canadian growing season is about to, or has already started, depending on where you are. Here in southern Ontario the local asparagus and fiddlehead seasons are almost over. It is a good time to make a pledge to try to eat more local foods. If we start when local produce is plentiful then it will be easier to continue throughout the year.

How do we eat local? Local produce is often available in our local grocery stores. In most provinces local fruits and vegetables bear some kind of logo such as “Select Nova Scotia” or “Foodland Ontario” to let us know where they are from. Farmers’ markets are an excellent way to eat locally and get the freshest produce available. To find a farmers’ market near you, you can go to a website sponsored by Agriculture and Agri-foods Canada — On the “links” page there are links to the various provincial farmers’ markets associations.

Gaining popularity is the concept of the 100-mile diet. This means that all food consumed is grown within 100 miles of the consumer. It is generally accepted that a few exceptions can be made for things like spices and salt since only a small amount is used at any one time. What this means to us as Canadians is that we can’t eat things like bananas and pineapples because they do not grow here. But we can start to enjoy the diversity of food grown locally. For example, until we really started to look, we had no idea so many varieties of apples were available. The same is true for potatoes. You haven’t lived until you have eaten blue mashed potato! You hardly miss the tropical fruits once you start to experiment with new flavours. These “exotic” local varieties are often found at farmers’ markets.

Of course, the most local food can get is when you grow it yourself. If you have the space and the know-how this can be a great way to save money and feel good about the food you are eating. This is not for everyone, though. We experimented with this last summer and for our efforts had a handful of peas, and a few scraggly-looking carrots. The rest fell victim to the local wildlife (mostly bunnies) and our poor weeding and thinning skills! So this year we’ll leave it to the pros and support our local farmers’ market.

– Sophia Dore is an environmental scientist with Conestoga-Rovers & Associates. Andrew Laursen is an assistant professor at Ryerson University;

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