Local Foods


Rooting Local and Regional Food Systems in Sustainability

ecotrustAt Food Alliance, we think it’s great that people are rediscovering the bounty and beauty of foods grown closer to home. Local food gives people a sense of place, connects them with the broader community, and creates important economic opportunities for small and beginning farmers. 

But we must not let our love for “local” eclipse other important questions about our food. Localizing food production and consumption can have very positive benefits,  but regional growing conditions, population density, and land use patterns must be taken into account when considering the sustainability of local food.

Most consumers want to buy and eat a wide variety of foods throughout the year. That means domestic shipping and international trade are here to stay. Given all this, we must consider not only where all our food comes from, but how it is produced, processed and distributed. Through this broader lens a more complete picture of our food comes into focus, giving us information needed to make purchasing decisions that support all of our sustainability goals and concerns.

Following are a few great resources for local/regional/sustainable food and farm advocates:
Find Food Alliance Certified Producers & Handlers in Your Region




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Sustainable Foods Summit San Francisco Calls For Greater Transparency

Sustainable Foods Summit, San Francisco

(London) January 28, 2011 – The North American edition of the Sustainable Foods Summit (www.sustainablefoodssummit.com) drew to a successful close last week, with many participants calling for greater transparency and accountability from the food industry.

Organized by Organic Monitor, the summit brought together about 200 executives at theRitz-Carlton in San Francisco on 18-19th January 2011. New horizons for eco-labels and sustainability were the focal theme of the 2-day summit.The summit explored the evolution of eco-labels – such as Organic, Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance – in an increasingly global food industry.

The advent of international supply chains is leading many consumers to become disconnected from agriculture andfood production methods. Scott Exo, executive director of Food Alliance, echoed the general sentiment at the summit, calling for the ‘de-commoditization’ of food products byproviding greater traceability to consumers. Seth Goldman, co-founder and president of Honest Tea, opened the summit with his keynote on the triple bottom line. By using the example of tea plantations in China, he showed how modernization does not always contribute to sustainability. Since its launchin 1999, Honest Tea has become one of the fastest growing ethical beverage brands in the US.

The first session explored sustainability initiatives in the food industry, with many speakers raising the question, ‘how do you measure sustainability?’ The use of metrics in sustainability performance was explored by Joseph McIntyre from AG Innovation Network. Albert Straus, founder of the Straus Family Creamery, shared his company’s approaches to measuring the carbon footprint of its dairy operations. The importance of offsetting carbon emission was also highlighted by Theresa Marquez from Organic Valley who showed the role of organic agriculture in carbon sequestering. Sustainability in foodservice was covered by Bon Appetit Management Company, which is sourcing locally from small farmers.

Sustainable Foods Summit, San Francisco

Also in the morning session, Kenneth Ross from Global ID discussed future trends in eco-labels. His paper stressed the importance of IT in combating food fraud and providing traceability to consumers. Convergence of mobile and internet technologies is expected to allow consumers to get ecological and social footprints of their food products. The session ended with a lively debate on sustainability indicators and measurement.The second session honed in on ethical sourcing and sustainable ingredients. The opening papers examined the role of Rainforest Alliance and Fair Trade standards in lowering social and ecological impacts of food products.

Sustainable Foods Summit, San Francisco
Sustainable Foods Summit, San Francisco

Nasser Abufara from Canaan Fairtrade explained how social enterprise can improve lives of marginalized growers.Using case studies of three of the most traded food commodities, sustainable sourcing was discussed by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Theo Chocolate and Givaudan.

Marketing & distribution innovations were the subject of the third summit session. Leading retailers – Fresh & Easy and Safeway – shared some of their ethical trading and marketing initiatives. Alex Petrov from Safeway showed how its O Organics label had transcended the boundaries of a private label without cannibalizing manufacturer brands.Fresh & Easy, a subsidiary of the global retailer Tesco, explained how it was raising the bar by implementing new ethical codes of conduct. Ellen W. Feeney from Whitewave Foods shared her experiences in developing brands to meet consumers’ needs for healthy and ecological products with the ‘planetary health’ initiative.

The last session of the summit – organic plus strategies – began with an update on theglobal organic products market. Amarjit Sahota, President of Organic Monitor, showed how pioneering organic food companies were integrating sustainability into their corporate ethos and how some eco-labels were converging. Proceeding papers gave case studies of such developments. Equal Exchange stated how companies could intertwine organic and fair trade practices, whilst the Brazilian company Native Organic Products shared its raft of sustainability actions.

Using wine as a case study, the potential of biodynamic foods was explored by Demeter USA and Fetzer-Bonterra Vineyards. Chad Smith from Earthbound Farms closed the session with an interactive discussion onecological packaging for sustainable food products.The third edition of the executive summit raised many questions about sustainability inthe food industry: Will an eco-label ever fully represent sustainability? What ecological and social parameters are most important in such a standard? What are the most efficient methods to measure sustainability? Where is the line between green marketing and greenwashing? How can companies become more sustainable in distribution andpackaging?

The next editions of the Sustainable Foods Summit aim to address such questions. About the Sustainable Foods Summit Organized by Organic Monitor, the aim of the Sustainable Foods Summit is to discussand debate the major issues the food industry faces concerning concerning sustainability and eco-labels. The proceedings of the North American summit (San Francisco, 18-19th January 2011) are available for a small professional fee. More information is available at: http://www.sustainablefoodssummit.com

Organic Monitor has announced the dates of the next editions of the Sustainable FoodsSummit as…European edition Amsterdam (23-24 June 2011) North American edition San Francisco (17-18 January 2012)

In 2011, Organic Monitor is celebrating 10 years ofencouraging sustainable development. Since 2001, we have been providing a range of business services to operators in high-growth ethical & sustainable industries. http://www.organicmonitor.com






Cooking Class At The Fresh Market In Paris

By Paige Donner

A few weeks ago it was supposed to snow again. Not an entirely unwelcome prospect given that it so rarely snows in Paris and a there is something always so enchanting about a White Christmas.

Place Monge Fresh Market, Paris. Open Air Amateur Cooking Classes!

I’ll admit however, the prospect of a snowy afternoon had me thinking twice about the outdoor cooking class I had booked myself into through Ecole de Cuisine Amateur that I’d found while surfing around a Paris City Hall (Mairie de Paris) website.

The program instantly intrigued me. In Paris, they have taken a whole step farther the concept of cooking with fresh ingredients from the fresh weekly neighborhood markets, and have set up amateur cooking classes right at the markets themselves.

This one was at Place Monge, which is just a few steps away from the famous Rue Mouffetard in Paris’s 5th Arrondissement. When the sun burst through the sky by 9 a.m. that morning, I felt like the cooking gods and their fair winds were at my back.

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Once I arrived, I was so glad I’d made it.  I had booked myself in for the noon class.  I figured lunchtime was a perfect time to take a break and learn how to cook something, not to mention shop for some staples at one of Paris’s many and varied wonderful outdoor markets.

My French is not bad. This was very useful during the course. The class was held all in French. It’s not that difficult to follow along even if you don’t speak much French, but you just feel more like a participant when you can understand the instructions, and less like an observer.

The class began by us shopping for the ingredients in the market. Our assignment was a quick cake made with clementines and dates. It had a cream filling. So the Chef, from the very respected Atelier Guy Martin, accompanied us around the stalls of the fresh market while we purchased clementines, dates, eggs, and cream.

They had on hand already the delightful orange blossom water that we used to infuse the cream with the delicate flavoring of orange blossoms. They also had provided the lady finger cookies which we soaked in anise flavored orange juice that we heated and dissolved gelatin in. This formed the “cake” part of our cake and the clementines, dates and cream the filling.

All total, the whole class lasted about 45 minutes. There were 8 eight of us plus the chef and the organizer, a very polite and well-spoken young man who works for and represents the Federation Francaise de Cuisine Amateur or FFCA.  It is with FFCA that the Mayor of Paris and City Hall have partnered to promote these cooking classes to anyone who would like to  participate. You just need to reserve in advance on the website. The goal is to not just support the Fresh Market vendors, but also support the citizenry in their efforts to shop local, shop fresh and learn how to cook absolutely delicious dishes, with very little effort, using the ingredients you buy at open air markets.

I have to say, this is one of the loveliest foodie as well as culturally immersive adventures I’ve had so far on my food and wine quest in Paris!

Read More About Paris Culinary Tours andCooking Classes

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Marrakesh House: A Restaurant Without Walls

Local Foods at Marrakesh House

Avant-environmentalists Chef Rico and Helen McHugh of Go-Green Meetings and Events have partnered up to produce a truly unique culinary experience and holiday event at Marrakesh House on December 10th. The theme of the five course haute organic cuisine meal is “Think Globally – Eat Locally“  and taste buds won’t be the only things to benefit from Helen and Rico’s efforts as they have also arranged for a percentage of the event’s proceeds to be donated in support of  several eco-themed non-profits, including 350.org for its mission to implement global solutions that will end the climate crisis.

Marrakesh House is excited to announce that in addition to the splendid food and wine on offer, special guest speakers Chris Paine(Marrakesh House owner and filmmaker Who Killed the Electric Car?), Shellie Collier (LEED AP Project Manager and founder of design/build firm Homage Design), Christy Wilhelmi (organic gardening guru of GardeNerd) and Tim Skogstrom (owner of Agoura Hill’s gem of a winery, Cornell Winery) will offer expert insight and engaging conversation on greener living, organic gardening and wine tasting and selection.

For a more expansive description of the design of the event, head directly to the Fine Culinary Experience website to buy tickets for what will be a very memorable evening for all of your senses!





Factory Farms: Emily Deschanel Speaks Out

“Nights At The Round Table,” is a new series discussing relevant current issues. In this episode, participant Emily Deschanel, a committed Vegan, speaks out about Factory Farming. Presented by Gotham City Films.

Can’t See The Video?  CLICK HERE





The World’s Best Top 50 Restaurants – The San Pellegrino Awards

The San Pellegrino recently released its Top 100 Restaurants of The World. We decided to ask ourselves, how does a food critic rate a restaurant?

The Michelin Guide is the most revered, its stars the most sought-after. It has now spawned itself across Europe, in America and Japan, but remains strictly anonymous with a vast team of inspectors split into regions and who visit destinations unannounced. Its inspectors have never been allowed to out themselves to journalists and, according to a piece run last year in The New Yorker, they are advised to tell not even their parents about their line of work, in case they boast about it. Its main rival in Europe, the Gault Millau, takes itself as seriously, awarding points on a scale of 20 instead of a star rating. This score, too, is decided by a team of anonymous inspectors. –  From The National


1 Up 2 Noma Denmark The S.Pellegrino Best Restaurant in the World, The Acqua Panna Best Restaurant in Europe
2 Down 1 El Bulli Spain Restaurant Magazine Chef of the Decade
3 Down 1 The Fat Duck UK The Chef’s Choice sponsored by Electrolux
4 Up 1 El Celler de Can Roca Spain
5 Down 1 Mugaritz Spain
6 Up 7 Osteria Francescana Italy
7 Up 3 Alinea USA The Acqua Panna Best Restaurant In N.America
8 Up 33 Daniel USA The Highest Climber sponsored by Cocoa Barry
9 Down 1 Arzak Spain
10 Down 4 Per Se USA
11 Up 29 Le Chateaubriand France

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Comox Valley Shellfish Festival

Comox, BC June 3, 2010 The Comox Valley Shellfish Festival is gearing up for a bigger and even better event this year in BC’s shellfish capital, the Comox Valley.

The festival opens June 19th with the Gala Evening Dinner. 200 guests will be treated to a gourmet nine-course seafood supper served along the banks of Comox Harbour, outdoors underneath tents at the historic Filberg Lodge. Along with locally grown seafood, local vintners Beaufort Winery as well as Surgenor Breweries will be providing the wine and ale infusions throughout the evening. This year we are holding a silent auction to raise funds for local charity Y.A.N.A. Tickets are limited and going quickly.

The party continues on Sunday, June 20th at Comox Marina Park with tasting booths featuring shellfish delicacies as well as desert treats, live entertainment, a beer garden and the much anticipated Oyster Shucking Contest.

Visitors coming in from out of town can take advantage of a festival hotel rate being offered at the Kingfisher Oceanside Resort & Spa or discounts being provided for travelers from Vancouver to Comox on WestCoast Air.

Come meet growers, chefs and shellfish aficionados as you savour a truly west coast experience in scenic Comox Valley.

More information can be found on the festival website at Comox Valley Shellfish Festival Sea you at the festival!


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Organic Farming can help feed Africa’s population

Organic Farming In Africa

Nairobi – The ‘green’ revolution is underway in Africa, meeting widespread support from farmers and consumers. Unlike the biotech green revolution envisioned by many, this one is environmentally friendly.

This green revolution is a return to more natural methods of cultivation, with a preference for organic techniques. A recent Food and Climate Change workshop hosted by Media21 in Nairobi brought renewed attention to Africa’s organic movement. The theme of the workshop, held April 12th to 16th, was How will Africa feed her Children? Convened just for journalists, the workshop aimed to train journalists on sustainable food systems and nutrition. Research presented at the workshop stressed the importance of small-hold farmers in filling Africa’s food needs. Some African nations see organic agriculture as a method that will open up new global markets. The United Nations sees organic food production as a way for Africa to feed itself while creating more valuable agricultural products, saying it is

“… a sustainable and environmentally friendly production system that offers African and other developing countries a wide range of economic, environmental, social and cultural benefits.”

Most African farmers are subsistence farmers, barely able to produce enough food for their own needs. To be successful, agricultural production in Africa has make it past a large number of hurdles, such as pests, soil health, lack of access to good seed, and climate change. Biotech crops have been touted as the next green revolution for Africa, but the fact that the first green revolution failed Africa for more than a few years demonstrates the major weakness of relying on biotech to provide the solutions to Africa’s hunger problems. Still, some people, like Bill Gates insist that biotech can enhance food security in Africa.

“We have to develop crops that can grow in a drought; that can survive in a flood; that can resist pests and disease. We need higher yields on the same land in harsher weather. And we will never get it without a continuous and urgent science-based search to increase productivity.”

Mozambique was one of the first countries to take up idea of implementing the biotech green revolution. Although the country implemented a plan to use biotech to reduce the need for imported food, supporters have cautioned

“This is a program that will take 10 years, 20 years to bear fruit.”

Proponents of the biotech green revolution say the new agriculture can save Africans from hunger and provide income for farmers through increased productivity. However, world grain production is higher than ever, thanks largely to biotechnology, but there are still massive numbers of people experiencing hunger in Africa. The difficulties facing successful agricultural production in Africa are multiple, and the answers will never be simple. that said, organic production techniques, combined with traditional growing methods are resulting in some notable increases in yield, proving natural green farming is just as promising as biotech. One outstanding organic success stories is that of Tigray, Ethiopia; a story that highlights the importance of diversity in the success of agricultural practices for the continent. The ten year experiment in Tigray not only reversed damaged soil, crop yields were increased through the practice of composting.

A recent programme offered jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization and Germany saw 5,000 small scale African farmers receive guidance on growing organically, as well as other training and supports, ultimately resulting in many of those farmers able to sell their organic crops on international markets. The Food and Agriculture Organization anticipates that international markets for fair trade and organic food products will increase by at least 5% over the next three years, and the industry reflects that confidence, saying it expects slower, but steady growth into the near future. There are approximately 800 million Africans suffering from hunger, a statistic that translates to 1 in every 3 people lacking food.

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Growing Green Awards

By: Frances Beinecke
President of NRDC, New York City
Originally Published On: Switchboard

Today [April 13, 2010] NRDC announced the winners of our second annual Growing Green Awards. These awards honor the farmers and food pioneers across the country who are helping us rethink the food we eat and its impacts on the environment.Just last year, we rolled up our sleeves and started our first search for people who were feeding a growing demand for healthier, more sustainable food. One hundred and forty nominations later, we were amazed and inspired by how these leaders were saving energy, reducing their global warming pollution, educating their communities and growing lots and lots of nutritious, delicious food.

This year, our number of nominees jumped to 170. Not only are more farmers realizing that it’s better for their land and health to grow more sustainably, but more families are rolling up their sleeves and starting to eat (and grow) green, too. They’re shopping at farmers’ markets, buying organic, planting gardens and finding a new joy in food

And healthier food is making the headlines every day, thanks to First Lady Michelle Obama’s exciting new campaign and food celebrities like Jamie Oliver who are sparking the Food Revolution. There’s no doubt: our food system is going green, and we’re eating it up.

NRDC’s 2010 Growing Green Awards celebrate the people who are meeting our hunger for food that’s healthier for our bodies and the planet.

Here are the winners of this year’s Growing Green Awards:

  • Russ Lester won the 2010 Growing Green Award for Food Producers. Lester is the co-owner of Dixon Ridge Farms, the largest U.S. handler of organic walnuts, and has dramatically reduced the environmental impacts of his walnut orchards and processing. His walnuts are grown without harmful chemicals, and he converts waste walnut shells into energy that is used to power other stages of walnut processing.
  • Mike Benziger won the 2010 Growing Green Award in the Water Steward category for his indstury-leading water conservation and recycling methods. Founder of Benziger Family Winery, Benziger uses a constructed wetland and pond treatment system to recycle an average of 2 million gallons of water per year.
  • Fred Kirschenmann won the 2010 Growing Green Award for Thought Leaders. For over 30 years, Kirschenmann has inspired sustainable food advocates, researchers and policymakers to learn more about local food systems that work in harmony with nature and our health. Kirschenmann is President of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, a New York nonprofit that serves as a sustainable farm, kitchen and teaching campus for nearby city dwellers.
  • Karl Kupers won the 2010 Growing Green Award in the Business Leader category. Kupers co-founded Shepherd’s Grain, which reconnects 33 growers in the Pacific Northwest to local markets through the sale of sustainably farmed wheat. Kupers uses an untraditional pricing model to help his growers profit from higher levels of environmental stewardship

Twitter @LocalFoodWine

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Do The 100-Mile Diet

New Year’s is a time of resolutions and most of us tell ourselves we’ll go on a diet. Well, here’s a diet, the 100-Mile Diet, that’s worth sticking to!

Locally harvested vegetables and produce.

First the Why’s…

1. Taste the difference.

At a farmers’ market, most local produce has been picked inside of 24 hours.  Local foods can also be bred for taste, rather than for withstanding the abuse of shipping or industrial harvesting. 100-Mile Diet foods will be the best tasting foods you’ve ever had!

2. Know what you’re eating.

Buying food today is complicated. What pesticides were used? Is that corn genetically modified? Was that chicken free range or did it grow up in a box? People who eat locally find it easier to get answers. Many of us build relationships with farmers whom they trust.  When in doubt, you can drive out to the farm and see for yourself.

3. Meet your neighbors.

Local eating is social. Studies show that people shopping at farmers’ markets have 10 times more conversations than their counterparts at the supermarket. Join a community garden and you’ll actually meet the people you pass on the street.

4. Get in touch with the seasons.

When you eat locally, you eat what’s in season. You’ll remember that strawberries are the taste of summer. Even in winter, comfort foods like squash soup and pancakes just make sense–a lot more sense than flavorless fruit from the other side of the world.

5. Discover new flavors.

Ever tried sunchokes? How about purslane, quail eggs, yerba mora, or tayberries? These are just a few of the flavors you might get to sample over a year of local eating.  Even familiar foods will be more interesting. Count the types of pear on offer at your supermarket. Maybe three? Small farms are keeping alive nearly 300 other varieties–while more than 2,000 more have been lost in our rush to industrial agriculture.

6. Explore your home.

Visiting local farms is a way to be a tourist on your own home turf, with plenty of stops for snacks.

7. Save the world.

Studies have found that a regional diet consumed 17 times less oil and gas than a typical diet based on food shipped across the country. The ingredients for a typical British meal, sourced locally, traveled 66 times fewer “food miles.” Or we can just keep burning those fossil fuels and learn to live with global climate change, the fiercest hurricane seasons in history, wars over resources…

8. Support small farms.

We discovered that many people from all walks of life dream of working the land–maybe you do too? In areas with strong local markets, the family farm is reviving. That’s a whole lot better than the jobs at Wal-Mart and fast-food outlets that the globalized economy offers in North American towns.

9. Give back to the local economy.

A British study tracked how much of the money spent at a local food business stayed in the local economy, and how many times it was reinvested. The total value was almost twice the contribution of a dollar spent at a supermarket chain and some accounting estimates it’s actually much higher than that even.

10. Be healthy.

Will  the 100-Mile Diet work as a weight-loss program? Well, it depends on what you eat. More importantly, though, you’ll feel better than ever. You’ll eat more vegetables and fewer processed products, sample a wider variety of foods, and eat more fresh food at its nutritional peak. Eating from farmers’ markets and cooking from scratch will keep you entertained and engaged with your food, in a nutritious and tasty way.

11. Create memories.

A friend of ours has a theory that a night spent making jam–or pies–with friends will always be a better time than the latest Hollywood blockbuster. We feel it too.

12. Have more fun while traveling.

Once you’re addicted to local eating, you’ll want to explore it wherever you go. You may just find yourself picking organic grapes on a vineyard one day.

Now, For The How’s…

1. Start small.

You can start with a single meal, a 100-Mile day, a one-week commitment. Most people partner up, or do the 100-Mile Diet as a family or group.

2. There are no rules.

Make your 100-Mile Diet experiment a challenge. If you’re trying it for a day, consider getting tough: every ingredient in every product has to come from within 100 miles.

Over a longer period, escape clauses are nice. Maybe the occasional restaurant meal or dinner at friends’ houses?

3. Surf the internet.

There are likely resources specific to your area, from lists of nearby organic farms to community kitchens where people get together to can foods. A great resource for Americans is Local Harvest, where you can find markets, local-food-friendly restaurants, farms, and food delivery programs for every region. In Canada, the city of Richmond in B.C. is developing the Richmond Fruit Tree Sharing Project (RFTSP). Its aims are 1) to grow vegetables and distribute harvested, healthy produce to food banks and community organizations, 2) Use organic, sound environmental practices and unmechanical farming techniques 3) Connect surplus fruit and vegetables to volunteers who have time to harvest it and distribute it to food banks and community organizations.

Community Supported Agriculture, find a farmer in your area.

Folks in the UK can visit BigBarn.

4. Find your Farmers’ Market

The easiest and most fun step toward eating locally. Make the market a weekly priority for your food shopping. Check out  13 Lucky Farmers Market Tips for more info.

5. Find your farmers.

Most larger cities and many smaller towns have organic food delivery companies, often with direct connections to local farms. Consider joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.

6. Start a garden — even a tiny one.

Self-sufficiency feels good, and greens up our cities and towns.  In a one-bedroom urban apartment you can grow vine beans, tomatoes and herbs in pots on your balcony. Is there a community garden,  run by a cooperative community group, in your neighborhood?

7. Plan a winter garden.

Winter is a tough time to find local produce. You might be surprised at what still can grow. Ask your gardening friends, garden shops, or read through regional seed catalogues.  Garlic, kale, mustard greens, turnips and cabbage grow throughout the winter. Spinach and Swiss chard are other good winter greens. Friends as far north as Whitehorse, Yukon, have extended the growing season with a backyard greenhouse.

8. Buy in bulk and preserve.

Buying bulk saves money. Throw a”preserving” party. With a few bottles of local wine and cider, even a small group can make quick work of canning jams, pickles, fruit and tomatoes.  Call up your elders before the knowledge is lost, try the local library, or go online with National Center for Home Food Preservation.

9. Join the movement.

Do the 100-Mile Diet, even if just for a day. Everyone, and every meal, counts.

Twitter @LocalFoodWine

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