Eating Locally

With the environment being in the forefront of the news and food scares happening more often, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about where the food I’m buying comes from and trying to reduce my “carbon footprint“.

So I headed over to Zehrs with the intention of buying everything I possibly could from Ontario farms. Easy, right? Well, it was more difficult than I thought.

It never occurred to me that almost everything on the shelves is shipped in from outside Canada. I walked out of the store with just a stalk of broccoli and a handful of raspberries.

Fall harvest has begun and we have great sources for local produce right in our own backyards. There is a bounty of goods at our doorstep and we should definitely make the most of it. Klassen’s blueberries, Lafferty corn, Abbruzese apples, McLeod’s pumpkins, Leamington tomatoes. It’s all here and ready for the pickin’.

Fresh tomatoes, parsley and basil from the garden.

Eating locally is a great way to support our farmers and reduce our “carbon footprint” on the planet. Most foods found on our grocery store shelves have travelled thousands of miles to get there, ripening on trucks and planes as they go. Grapes from Chile, kiwis from New Zealand, mangoes from Indonesia, oranges from South Africa.

I’m new to the whole eating locally and in season thing. It’s only recently that I’ve started to think about where what I eat is coming from. Not much thought was put into the origins of the products I purchased. If it looked good, I bought it. But with all the food scares in the news recently, it’s making me take a second look at what it is I’m buying and where it’s coming from.

Eating in season takes some doing. Who can resist a big, red, juicy strawberry in the middle of winter? But thanks to a 3000km trek from California to our homes, those berries have had plenty of time to ripen. The truth of the matter is maybe we shouldn’t be eating stawberries in January. Maybe we should wait until June when they’ve ripened on nearby farms. They’re not as big but they’re just as good or even better!

Buy produce at the peak of its season and store it, make preserves or freeze it for the winter months or when you need it. And there is no time like the present. Now is the perfect time to indulge in some of the best our region has to offer. Tomatoes, peaches. corn, plums, apples, squash, etc. Get them from roadside stands, local grocers and markets.

On my way to class yesterda I stopped by Fred’s Farm Fresh International Market on 3300 Huron Church Road. They had loads of fresh, local produce! The majority items sold were fruits and vegetables grown in Ontario.

I know you can get everything you want from your local farmer. Every year when September rolls around my mouth starts to water for a taste of a fig. Well, you know as well as I that a fig is hard to come by in Essex County. Unless it’s from your Italian neighbour’s backyard, nearly all fresh figs are imported. Nevertheless, a fig I must have.

But if each of us just made an effort to purchase just a few items in our baskets from a local source each week, the difference would be immense. We would be sustaining our local economy, putting money back into our region, reducing our carbon footprint and maybe even eating a little healthier.

Here’s a few links about farmers markets, eating locally and knowing what’s in season:

Eat Local Challenge
Canadian Farmers Markets
Farmers Markets Ontario
Foodland Ontario
100 Mile Diet
Canadian Food Inspection Agency – Food Recalls

Listen in this Wednesday at 8 p.m. on CJAM 91.5 radio .

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