By Stephanie Marcus
In the midst of midterms, part-time jobs and the attempts of scraping together something that resembles a social life, it’s difficult to eat healthy, let alone eat locally. Yet a new health and consumer-conscious trend to buy locally-grown food — food produced within a 100 mile/160 kilometre radius of where you live — is gaining popularity.
The idea is that buying from local farmers makes you know more about the food you’re eating. As well, you get the freshest possible food since it’s traveled the shortest distance.
If you live at Ryerson, for example, the 160 kilometre radius spans just short of London to the west, Belleville to the east, Bracebridge to the north and upstate New York to the south. There is a diverse range of farmland, given the right season.
There are a few things to consider when standing up to the challenge of eating so close to home.
Eating locally means eating seasonally, says local farmer John Camilleri, owner of Poplar Lane Organic Farms. In the dead of winter, potatoes and squash are available, but you will be hard-pressed to find a variety of fruits and vegetables.
“If you want to do it right, you have to buy in bulk, in season, then can, freeze and preserve foods. That’s the way it’s been done for hundreds of years,” said Camilleri.
This means doing your research and learning about agricultural seasons. It also means adapting; you have to be willing to give up your early morning caffeine boost, because coffee beans definitely aren’t local.
Still, if you want to give local eating a chance, head to Organics On Bloor (468 Bloor St. W) for your fruits, veggies and dairy products. This small but packed store offers tons of options, and the staff are more than happy to answer your questions about exactly where the food is coming from.
“Right now about 50 per cent of our stock is from local farms, and in the summer everything is local,” said owner Monica Walker, who praises those who want to attempt the rigid plan of the 100-mile diet.
“It’s better for the environment. You don’t have masses of jet fuel being emitted in order to transport it, there is less wear and tear on roads and, of course, you are supporting your local economy.”
James MacKinnon, Canadian journalist and co-author of 100-Mile Diet: a Year of Local Eating, says eating locally has benefits beyond helping the environment and economy.
By buying local produce, city dwellers build a connection with the food they eat, says MacKinnon.
Although shopping for organics and local grown foods can be expensive, Organics On Bloor offers a 10 per cent student discount for purchases over $10.
Another place to check out is 4 Life Natural Foods (257 Augusta Ave.) in Kensington Market. Owner Potsothy Sallap also said come summer time, local farmers will supply all of his produce as well.
And if you want to follow the traditional route, visit your local farmers and their goods at weekly farmer’s markets. Dufferin Grove Park Farmers’ Market (on Dufferin Street, south of Bloor Street) operates year-round, every Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m., and offers organic local meats, produce, breads and dairy products.
Also, swing by St. Lawrence Market (Front Street and Jarvis Street) on Saturdays, where local farmers offer their goods at cheap prices. The market is probably your best bet to find a variety of foods in one place.
And for those trying to fully commit to the diet, Camilleri, whose farm grows its own grains and produce, said it’s not realistic.
“The idea of buying locally then has to go beyond the food. It has to do with where are their clothes coming from, where did they buy their tires? If you are going to commit to a diet like this you have to take all the factors in, not just food.”