Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Eating Locally

by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

One of my five goals for 2010 is a 100 mile diet, or a 160 km diet as I am calling it.  Our family has only been on it for 4 days, and we are finding it quite a challenge.  It was created by Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon who were the first to take this type of diet up in Vancouver, Canada.  To learn more about the 100 mile diet visit www.100milediet.org

It has only been a few days and only a few meals have been fully local, with the main reason being that I have quite a stockpile of food in case of emergency that we regularly rotate to keep it fresh.  About 3 months worth in fact.  One of my conditions of the local diet was that during the year, we would still use food that we already had stored in the house and supplement it with local fare as we went along.  I certainly didn't want all that stored food to go to waste.

The challenge has encouraged my wife and I to examine where our food really comes from and I don't mean the supermarket either.  Some of the weird examples in our stockpile so far are; a can of corned beef from Brazil, canned tomatoes from Italy, canned whole potatoes from Belgium! Cheap food is not always local.  I have no idea why we import all of this food, when most countries could probably feed themselves if they wanted to.

So, to prove a point, I am going to give it my best shot to eat as local as we can for an entire year.  We may have some tough times, but I believe that with determination and a lot of research, we can manage to achieve this goal.

To that end, I am growing more food than I ever have, and instead of giving away surplus to friends and neighbours, we are delving into the garden every day to harvest produce to cook that night.  I feel like we can really make a difference to our health, and help promote local food production in our area by letting people know why we attempting to be locavores for a year.

If you would like to find out what sort of 100 mile radius you have a look at this map.  Just type in your address and the red circle will show you what sort of challenge you might have in trying the 100 mile diet.

Farmers markets are abound in my area, so there will be no problem picking up local fare.  I have 8 chickens who keep me well stocked in eggs and both my wife and I are good cooks, so we shouldn't have a problem whipping up a meal from all of this fresh produce. 

So far we have managed quite well, and last night I cooked up some leek, potato and ham soup all from local sources, and my wife Kim made a Peach crumble for desert from peaches grown in our little orchard.  Not only do we believe that we will save a bit of money over the year because we won't be buying expensive processed foods, we will also probably loose weight as well.  This is because the processes foods have ingredients that make it near on impossible to trace the origins of the food, are usually high in fat, and low in nutrients, so we are going to steer clear unless we can guarantee they are all from local sources.

I know it is a big challenge, but it is probably one of the most exciting ones I have taken up on my journey towards a sustainable lifestyle.  It is nearly like being self sufficient, but with help from others, if that makes sense.  It will lower our environmental footprint dramatically, and raise community awareness that it is possible to live locally without importing food.  I am also hoping that it will raise the profile of our local food producers and I will certainly let them know why I am seeking them out and will offer to promote them on my blog for free.

So, every Sunday I will be writing a post on my personal blog about how easy or hard it was to eat locally for that week, lessons learnt, and the percentage of food that we managed to source from our area for each meal.  Is this a face that looks worried (as he trims a tiny leek)?

I was wondering if any of you had taken up this challenge, and if so could you please share any tips via a comment.  If you have please let me know of any downfalls or easy wins, because any encouragement at this early stage would be most welcome to me and my family. 

It is going to be a great year!


Kate said...

I have never formally undertaken the 100-mile diet. We have been following the "bull's eye diet" approach for a while though. The idea there is that we first eat out of our backyard (fruit, veg, eggs - so far), then buy directly from local producers, and only buy from any other store what those two sources cannot provide.

While we have never been absolutist about it, we have certainly changed both our diet and our shopping habits for the better. Organic fruit, veg, honey, meat, and dairy have been easy to get from our immediate area, even though we have to make separate trips for many of these things. My husband is following a 35-mile limit for the beer he drinks. We run into trouble however with grains, sugars, and cooking oils. Those are still the hardest things for us to source. I make all the bread we eat, but the flour comes from halfway across the US. And I haven't found any good local substitute for cooking oil (olive and sunflower). The little things that you don't take into account, like condiments, can be problematic too. For tea and spices and chocolate I make Fair Trade exceptions, reasoning that tea and spices were traded via sailing ships 300 years ago.

Good luck with your challenge. I'll enjoy following your progress.

Den said...

I am reading 'Animal, Vegetable, Miracle' by Barbara Kingsolver and its a real inspiration so was already getting my head around eating locally before I read your post.
The challenge we have here in Montenegro is actually working out where products come from as labelling is sketchy (no EU standards here!) and all in Cyrillic language!
My main resolution so far is to grow more of our oown food so that we can be sure of its provenance, because although many of the fruit & veg we buy are so local they are produced by the guy literally up the road, we are not convinced that they grow organically... One step forward, 2 steps back! It's not easy being green...
Good luck in your mission. I regulalry haunt your blog so will look forward to the updates.

maria said...

We, as a family, have yet to embark in the 100-mile diet. We started our garden last year and this year, we are planning on growing more vegetables and canning the surplus. We live in farm country, here in the states, and it is not so hard to get organic chicken, eggs, beef, etc...but what it is hard is grains, tea and oil.

We shop locally from a dry goods store that only buys organic products - so in a way, we have started the 100-mile diet.

I believe, that it would be easier, to take small steps. Wishing you the best on this new challenge!


Damn The Broccoli said...

I love what you are doing here.
My girlfriend and I are trying to do something very similar although we allow ourselves a few sins.
I am just entering my third year of growing my own and this is the first serious year where I have gone at it. Trying to be as natural as possible too as it's no good trying to grow your own if you are going to cover it in chemicals that have travelled as far as the food you are protesting against!
We also try to make as much of our own stuff as possible including bread, butter and recently soap.

This year should see the addition of a few chickens as well to start egg production.

The things we now have to source from further afield are getting fewer and fewer and in general are now bought in bulk, such as oils.

It's not easy and I have the fullest respect for anyone else that is tackling the same problems.

All the best with your challenge, I look forward to checking back and seeing how it's going.


Tree Huggin Momma said...

I have not taken this challenge per se. I have attempted to eat local, when a local option is available. However, I cannot give up my citrus fruit (but am going to attempt a meyer lemon) or my avacados (determined to grow this one as well). So I do still eat some things that are not local, but I do my best to stay local.

Rose said...

Like some of the other commenters, I haven't taken the challenge formally but I am trying to increase our local consumption.Thanks for that link to the map Gavin, I have been thinking west of here but not north or south. Cheers, Rose

Jess @ Openly Balanced said...

Good for you! People who undertake this challenge are truly inspiring to me. I, for one, think that not letting your stored food go to waste is completely reasonable.

My goal for this year is to make progress. For me that involves the first season of trying to grow my own food, cutting way back on meat consumption, focusing more on eating "real food," eating out less, and shopping at farmers markets and my co-op as much as possible. I am fortunate that my co-op labels much of their food with its origin. It makes it so much easier to make informed choices.

Good luck with your local food adventure!

GooseBreeder said...

Good one you all!I hate anything this formalised so wouldn't do it but have progressively been making sure everyhting we eat is as local as it can be.We have a good Farmers' Market,good local producers of meat,cured sausages,butter,dairy products,fish,nuts,cheese, fruit and vegetables.I have chooks/hens so eggs home produced and some vegetables.i have no problem with pineapples, mango and bananas brought from Queensland because it's all I buy from out of State.Also belong to a local LETS group so trade for barter other goods such as chutneys, marmalade, other foods and goods.
If it's carbon you're worried about and use of fossil fuels make sure that not only your diet doesn't include well travelled goods but that you and your family don't fly or travel using fuel.Some seem to think it's a challenge to use foods without a passport but forget about other areas or it's too inconvenient.
Good luck and good eating!

Jess @ Openly Balanced said...

@GooseBreeder - Thank you for mentioning LETS groups in your comments. I didn't even know those existed! I'm going to have to find one in my area :).

Julie said...

I have to some extent and with many backslides done this challenge a year ago. I live alone on a small property so apart from my garden I was reliant on local small farms. And I bugged the crap out of the chain grocers to provide locally sourced produce. If I am being honest I was probably about 75 percent compliant, and yes the tough items are oils sugar and grains. Salt is easy if you live by the sea :) The other thing I think anyone considering this should do is sit down with paper and pen and your family and make a list of all the things you regularly eat, cross off everything you can't grow or get locally and then allow everyone involved to pick a couple of "wild cards" to put back in the mix. I guarantee coffee chocolate tea or flour will turn up on this list. And remember that seasonings and spices contain no water so they will be the best choices for food that comes from away. They don't have near the carbon footprint of say washed and bagged vegetables and they can sure make a difference to limited choices at the dinner table. Wish you the best with this. I actually enjoyed the challenge and came away with my food habits pretty much changed permanently. Simple local food (with a few wild cards;-)) is a lovely way to eat.

dixiebelle said...

I did try to be a Locavore back in April 2008 but we were not set up for it, nor committed enough back then! I also considered incorporating other items too, like toiletries, clothing etc! You would rely alot on local business and markets, for handmade goods, but then packaging, fabric etc. would not necessarily be from the 160km!


In August 2008, I then became interested in Ethicurean eating.

An ethicurean is a person who attempts to combine ethical food consumption with an interest in epicureanism, eating ethically without depriving oneself of taste. The approach takes into account the effect of one's food production and consumption on the environment, as well as the quality of life of animals involved in production of anything they consume.

An ethicurean also commits to minimizing the amount of waste produced, the recycling of waste and the mindful use of resources (energy, water etc).


I have also blogged about Eco-eating here:

So, what am I trying to say with my long winded comment! It's not easy, but you have a great set up, and the dedication to do it. I found that as with any diet, depriving yourself doesn't work long term, so make sure you find some indulgences or treats to reward yourself with from your 160km area, to keep you motivated.

I also like the sound of the bulls-eye method, so will be looking more into that one, thanks Kate!

Good lucl Gavin... you are a great role model!

Bethany said...

Kudos to you for doing a 100 mile diet! I've been attempting to eat locally for about 5 years now and do pretty good, although I'm no expert. I don't know about your needs, but I found out quickly what I was willing to compromise on and what I was willing to "splurge" (in mileage) on. I hope you don't mind if I tell you a few decisions that helped me on my way.

First, I started the diet in New Mexico so I expanded the diet to 500 miles. That coincided with my CSA's trade area and was a more realistic area for farms in the southwest that are well spread out. Also I was able to get a far greater variety of foods than otherwise possible.

Second, I made a list of "exotics". Chocolate, coffee, olive oil, flour, baking soda, etc. are all things I can't really live without but can't get locally either. Now that I've moved to the Northeast I can get local grains but no local lemons. Lemons are on the I-can't-live-without list too.

And a note about oils for Kate. You can buy olive oil from California or Florida, but that's about as close as I've found. I personally either buy artisan oils (so at least I'm supporting the local economy) or I add it to the exotic list. You're right, trade's been going on for hundreds of years, it just used to be a supplement to our diets instead of the norm. I've really come to believe it's the thought process behind our eating that matters most.

Well, anyway, great blog. Thanks for sharing. I'm planning on using some of your sourdough recipes soon!

Angelina said...

Your post was perfect timing for me, my friend, I'm so glad I stumbled across this blog. I am currently in the process of using up all my freezer ad pantry storage. Once that is gone, it will only be replaced my local meats, cheeses and grains. I'm going to have to do some searching for legumes though. We may not be able to 100% but some big time changes are going to be made.. and for the better. Keep us posted!!

Anonymous said...

Hi from Wyoming USA - we are very fortunate that we are able to raise almost all of our food. We have 4 huge gardens (although gardening at 6,000 ft elevation is a challenge), chickens, pigs, beef, and a milk cow. We live 45 miles from the nearest grocery store so it is a benefit to only go to "town" once a month or so. I love your cheese making "tutorials" and hope to get better and more varied with my cheese.

Sustainable Eats said...

I started doing this last Jan 1 on a whim and made it the whole year with a few noted exceptions. This week we are now implementing voting things back. Once a month we all go to the store and pick one item. The kids chose squeezy yogurt and potato chips, I chose a box of local crackers made from who knows whose grain. It's a huge committment and you learn to cook all over again. I've been blogging about it but my resources are local to seattle so no help to you.

Maybe you'll get some ideas? My advice is find a farmer and strike up a friendship. Ask to buy "seconds" when things are ripe and put them up. Buy a second freezer. Learn to can, dry, lacto-ferment. I am about to start making beef jerky tonight.

If you don't find the right sources you will initially spend more money on food. Once you find smaller farmers who omit the farmers market and buy directly the price goes way down.

Buying a grain grinder has let me buy grain for about 40 cents per pounds. I spend maybe $15/month on pizza dough, bread, pretzels, muffins, pancakes, scones, etc.

Ask your local food artisans if they have wholesale buying clubs. That is where you find friends, order enough to get the wholesale or restaurant price and then split the order. Many cheesemakers, fisherman with packaged fish, etc will do this. Find a chicken farmer and buy a package. Order 1/4 cow or 1/2 pig for your freezer. That gets your meat way down.

Get chickens and consider raising meat rabbits. I have many friends close to me (in town) with honey bees too but until the kids are bigger we nixed that. You could find a local beekkeeper though.

There are so many ways to cut out the grocery store and feed off your local resources.

Good luck to you!

Ellen said...

How exciting! You're going to love it! I've been a locavore for 3+ years now and while I'm not 100%, I try hard. Sounds like you live in a more temperate region than I do (I'm in Colorado) so my job is to harvest (or receive from my CSA) the bounty and then process it right away before it goes bad. Blanch and freeze the greens, can the tomatoes, shred and freeze the zucchini - that sort of the thing. Then I have produce in the winter and haven't let the summer overwhelming bounty rot in the crisper. That's my advice - good luck and have fun!!

Gavin said...

I am very overwhelmed with the amount of responses. Thank you to one and all.

I have lot of ideas on how to proceed. Today we have found a local meat supply that only stock from within our local area, have found local fruit and some veg about 14km away, and went to one of the two big supermarkets to see what we could find. We can get local dairy, and a few items, but not much else. Lucky I know how to make cheese and yoghurt, so we are set for that!

Please keep the ideas coming if you have any that are not already covered off.


Rosemary said...

Hi Gavin, it would be awesome if you could put up your clues as to local meat and dairy available around your area (you're around Bacchus Marsh area, aren't you??) on our website at http://www.localfoodmap.net/ - a googlemap with icons aimed at helping anyone like you trying to source their food locally. So far over that way we've got garlic from Daylesford and walnuts from Wallace! :)

Any help for over Gippsland way would be appreciated also...

libby said...

Best of luck with your challenge. I had to laugh when I put in Wollongong - half of our area is the ocean!!!. A bit of an unfair disadvantage I think! I look forward to seeing your progress.


Annodear said...

Great idea!
I just subscribed to your blog because I want to follow your progress in this as well.

I really enjoyed seeing and envisioning how many types of food and fish I know are within 100 miles of where I live by looking at the map. Thanks for posting!

Hathor's Bath said...

This isn't too bad in England as most things are within a 100 mile radius, so I'm actually cutting things down considerably more this year and shopping in my own county of Wiltshire. It's not so much the challenge of finding the produce but of figuring a way to get it here as I don't drive. Either I need delivery plans or to hit the market on a regular basis (and nearly everything there this time of year is shipped from Europe). Still, it's a mission of mine this year. Now if I can just get my son to eat any of it...

Simple in France said...

Fun! Eating locally is something I enjoy and feel strongly about--and it's an ongoing process wherever you are. I hear you on finishing up food you already have. Wasting food is just wrong.

On my site, I have some tips on eating locally where I describe a week's worth of strategies and meals. But generally, I'd say the 2 big things are finding the local food sources and then overcoming the minor lack of convenience in getting them.

For example, DH and I have a local veggie store that stocks food from a farm within walking distance--which is perfect, but it's open just a few half days a week--so I usually go once a week and buy more than I need so that I don't get stuck going to the grocery store.

We also have a pretty good supplier of staples and dry goods, but they're not in town, so we buy a lot once a month.

Basically, it's a question of making it convenient--but it's a lot of fun!

And don't be afraid to make compromises while you're looking for the best local option for you!

Anonymous said...

Doing this kind of diet will be challenging in Austalia for sure, because of the way our food growing is set up (some things are only grown in certain regions)... I think if you start to make yourself aware of where certain foods are grown you will have a much better idea of what you can eat... find out all the types of fruit/veges/meat/milk farms etc in your area... i would REALLY struggle without sugar that's for sure! Not to mention spices etc! how strict are you being about this? Will you eat bread cooked locally, even if the wheat wasn't grown within that distance? I would recommend finding your nearst local farmer's market (if you have one) where farmers can take their produce? What about farmers who sell produce from outside their homes (or by the side of the road)...

I would think if you aimed to buy the majority of your food locally and source the rest as made/grown in australia then you would be doing really well!
It really is great to see you getting a better understanding of where your food is coming from... most people who don't grow up on farms don't have a clue where food comes from or what it takes to produce food, so good on you for having a go.
perhaps you could approach local farms about buying from them direct (as someone who grew up on a farm we often had people approach up about selling to them directly, which we often did!)!

Rosemary said...

Anonymous, here is some info I found about how to substitute honey for sugar:


(Basically honey tastes sweeter so a smaller quantity is required.)

risa said...

A worthy project!

We're "bulls-eye," too, like Kate. It's relatively easy for us as we have an acre and a mild climate.

The orchard surrounds the garden and is also the poultry run. Dropped fruit and orchard pests are converted into eggs, chicken, and duck. A hoop house helps with winter greens. We grow a lot of potatoes, beans, and winter squash, which go a long way toward declaring food independence.

Though we have raised a few sheep before, we don't have any larger farm animals at present. Our non-vegetarian home grown diet is supplemented by ham, mutton and turkey (8 miles), butter and cheese 12 miles) and wheat and barley (80 miles). Fair Trade coffee looms large, for now, but there are tea varieties that will grow here ... hmmm.

darkpurplemoon said...

My understanding was the 100 miles was chosen becuase they are surrounded by mountains at about that point all around them, not because that was what they felt was best?!

I was interested to see the comments from the lady about England and how easy it would be to eat within 100 miles. I think that depends where you live in England be honest. And as you say it is about how to get to it.

For example near me there is only one farmers market within a 30 mins drive of me and its twice a month. there maybe others but as I am working fulltime it is not possible for me to get to.

However I am trying to grow most of my veg and fruit, so that is a step in the right direction!


Hathor's Bath said...

Dark Purple, the thing about local food in England is you have to know where to look, and sadly the UK is still learning how to use the internet! Nothing is connected as it should be, so if you don't know where to search it can be a right bugger. Try Local Food Web, Food Fold, search for local food online, for transition towns in your area. There are farms and growers in your area, some whom deliver or can send out via courier. There's orchards in East England where you can "adopt trees" and then go to harvest them when ready (I don't drive but if I was in Kent I'd find a way!). Give it a try - spend about 15 minutes one day hunting google and various searches for sources.