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Book review
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Locavore: From Farmers’ Fields to Rooftop Gardens— How Canadians are Changing the Way We Eatby Sarah Elton HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., 2010, 240 pages, $29.99 ISBN: 978-1-55468-418-2

Sarah Elton’s journey to discover if it’s possible to be a locavore in Canada began with a cookie in a loot bag her daughter brought home from a birthday party. The pink frosted piglet looked like something her grandmother might have made.

But its wrapper held a shocking surprise: it was made in a factory—in China.

That cookie presented a defining moment for Elton. “[It] spurred me on a quest to understand more about the foods we eat and where they come from, and in the process changed the way I eat,” she says in the book’s introduction.

With a reporter’s nose for a story (Elton is a food columnist for CBC Radio), she tracks down farmers in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Here struggling farms—abandoned by big food processors and chain supermarkets which have become inextricably tied to the global food market—are again seeing success through the creation of co-ops, providing fresh produce and meats to local customers.

She delves into the resurgence of Quebec’s artisan cheese production, which went dormant when dairies became national industries. In Ontario, with its long and harsh winters, she found farmers growing food sustainably year-round, using modern greenhouse technology.

Canada’s major cities are also joining in the quest for a more sustainable food supply. Toronto’s Ontario Food Terminal is unique in North America, a huge bustling centre where local farmers work alongside food importers to sell their goods directly to the city’s many small and medium-sized shops.

In Montreal the Rooftop Garden Project is encouraging food production on rooftops, balconies, and fi re escapes. Chefs play their part, too, particularly in Vancouver, where “local, seasonal, and sustainable” are on practically every successful restaurant menu.

Though Elton offers sobering statistics on how unsustainable our current way of eating is, her highly readable book offers fresh hope that informed consumers can make a difference. Ask questions, she advises, eat in season as much as possible, avoid processed foods, and grow your own vegetables. You don’t need to give up coffee, chocolate, or bananas either, she says.

Choose organic and fair-trade products and you’re stepping in the right direction.

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