The 100-Mile Diet

On the first day of Spring 2005, writers James MacKinnon and Alisa Smith took a vow—"to live with the rhythms of the land as our ancestors did. For one year we would only buy food and drink for home consumption that was produced within 100 miles of our home" in British Columbia. The set simple rules: aside from dinners at restaurants or friends' homes, every ingredient must be locally produced.

Their adventure, chronicled in an online journal at Tyee.ca, has posed challenges those of us on a 2,500-mile diet might not even fathom: if you're buying locally, you've only got seasonal and regional food options. They tell of canning strawberries (where do you get sugar for canning within 100 miles of Vancouver?), baking bread (grain, including the barley used to make—gasp—beer is surprisingly hard to come by in BC), and pondering the food politics of local meats (pink salmon, organic chickens)—not to mention the challenge of affording all this pure, pesticide-free food.

As they admit, "This may sound like a lunatic Luddite scheme," but their reasons are compelling:
The short form would be: fossil fuels bad. For the average American meal (and we assume the average Canadian meal is similar), World Watch reports that the ingredients typically travel between 2,500 and 4,000 kilometres, a 25 percent increase from 1980 alone. This average meal uses up to 17 times more petroleum products, and increases carbon dioxide emissions by the same amount, compared to an entirely local meal.
But, really, they say, it's about the enjoyment of food. Recently, spending a weekend at my parents' 80-acre plot in Central Wisconsin, I enjoyed the closest thing I've ever had to such a meal: turkey and venison killed in my parents' woods by the family hunters, corn purchased from a neighbor down the road, salad and veggies grown organically in the garden, and grocery store milk that undoubtedly came from a local (although probably not organic or BGH-free) dairy. It was delicious—and, honestly, a little weird knowing that just about everything I'd eaten once lived, and was killed, on the very land where I ate. But shouldn't the weirdness be the other way around, that it's strange to nourish one's body with trucked-in food that was grown, killed, or slaughtered far away by someone you'll never meet?

(Thanks, Leif.)

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