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Catch up with Doe Gregoire at the farmers' market in Cawston, BC, and this spunky pioneer in organics can tell you more than you ever wanted to know about her apples.

Catch up with Doe Gregoire at the farmers’ market in Cawston, BC, and this spunky pioneer in organics can tell you more than you ever wanted to know about her apples.

She personally weed-wacks around the tree bases of six acres of McIntoshs and Spartans at her Four Winds Farm in the picturesque Similkameen Valley. She sprays nutrients and fertilizers, uses bees for pollination, and thins apples off branches by hand. She watches and waits as the barest buds bloom and then grow into juicy fruits, every detail marked in her journal.

Sure, you’ll get an earful, but original stories aren’t the only reason neighbourhood markets are the new “it” places. Farmers’ markets mean getting produce with low foodmiles.

Of course, one advantage to our intricate global food system is evident while strolling down any grocery aisle–a bounteous selection of international foodstuffs. Environmentally speaking, though, the movement of these goods is a burden. Transportation means burning fossil fuels and creating greenhouse gas emissions that trap heat and contribute to climate change. The farther food travels, the higher its foodmiles and environmental impact.

Take that garlic in your larder: it likely came from China, the Philippines, or one of 33 other states and countries that import garlic to Canada. On average, garlic is imported 12,392 km, giving it high foodmiles. However, for every kilogram of local garlic you buy, you will save 1,733 g, or 1.7 times its weight in greenhouse gas emissions.

Buy Local, Think Global

It’s not just for a healthier earth. “Food that has to be transported from other countries is often preserved with waxes, irradiation, gases, and fungicides,” notes the David Suzuki Foundation. “Local produce will likely be less contaminated with these things because it doesn’t need to be preserved for long periods of time. Because it’s fresher, local produce contains higher levels of vitamins than its imported competitors.”

Buying locally grown food also strengthens your community’s economy and supports family farms, a dwindling phenomenon in this age of agricultural giants. Perhaps best of all, developing relationships with nearby producers allows you to ask questions and ensure optimum food quality.

“The most important criteria for buying food in Canada is to minimize the distance between field and table,” according to the David Suzuki Foundation. “It’s best to buy locally grown organic food. But given the choice between imported organic and local produce, buying local is better.”

Action on Your Plate

To cut down your foodmiles, read labels and talk to your grocer, encouraging supermarkets to carry more local goods. Introduce a dine-locally theme to your monthly book club
dinner. Choose restaurants that promote regional specialties. Join Slow Food, (slowfood.com), the ultimate movement for preserving unique food cultures, with 80,000 members in 104 countries.

Turn visiting a farmers’ market into an exciting, regular weekend event. Some of Canada’s hottest chefs make an effort to shop locally for the cr? de la cr? of ingredients. Doe’s McIntosh apples, for instance, are renowned among customers for their unusually red skins. Who knows what heritage tomato, purple potato, or wildberry jam you’ll discover next?

While you won’t earn airmiles to Hawaii by paying more attention to where your food comes from, you’ll do our environment a huge favour.

Foodmiles

Even if you haven’t heard of foodmiles, you’ve probably racked them up at supermarkets. This term, coined by researchers studying the effects of food transportation, represent the distance food travels from farm or factory to consumer. Alas, if only the contents of our fridges could earn frequent flyer points!

The components of the average North American meal travel 2,400 km or 1,500 foodmiles, roughly the distance between Vancouver and Thunder Bay.

How Many Foodmiles are in Your Shopping Bags?

Check out the Good Food Directory created by the Lifecycles Project Society in Victoria, BC. A handy online calculator reveals how many greenhouse gas emissions (GGEs) you’ll save by buying locally produced rather than imported foods.

ProductAverage distance imported (km)GGEs saved for every kg of local purchases (in g)

Honey

Beef

Grapes

Chocolate

Eggs

Vinegar

Baked goods

Flour

Soy products

Chicken

Strawberries

Apples

12,914

10,937

10,108

8,598

5,373

5,372

4,025

3,866

3,375

3,053

2,534

2,038

1,844

1,586

1,439

1,318

1,143

803

652

727

781

790

597

295

Source: lifecyclesproject.ca/food_directory/in

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