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!
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.
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.