10 Jun Do you eat local? Think again.
I don’t normally get on a soapbox but this video deserves 2 minutes and 46 seconds of your attention. It’s not funny. It’s not cute. It’s just very eye-opening.
I saw a raw version of this video during the Hellman’s information session I attended a couple of weeks ago. During the viewing, I gasped out loud when I heard the ratio of homegrown to imported pears.
Denial immediately set in. I told myself all sorts of soothing things. The biggest comfort? Living just outside the farm-rich Kitchener-Waterloo region most of my food was local. Pears must be one dramatic exception. Yes, that’s it. They picked the one item that would grab me by the collar and shake me.
But the researchers for this video must have been psychic. Part way through my mental placating, the narrator dropped another bomb. On average, meals in the K-W region, despite being surrounded by farms, travel more than 4000 kilometers to get to the table. And pears alone don’t make a meal.
The video is now up on YouTube, with fancy graphics in place, but the information is no less unsettling the second time round. In fact, I’m a bit more disturbed since I’ve absorbed more of the data. While they use Canadian statistics, I’m sure the numbers aren’t all that different for the US border states. And what would the numbers be for countries with a short growing season and little arable land?
In the interest of full disclosure, I remind you the information session was hosted by Hellman’s, who paid for my hotel, transportation, meals and beverages. The presenters tell me the numbers used in this video came from a wide variety of impartial sources and were meticulously vetted before going live. Based on the thoroughness of their legal department in allowing for reciprocal links, I believe them. I also want you to know I’m under no obligation — legal or implied — to mention or promote this video.
After seeing this, Andrew pointed out that we don’t know where the flash frozen fruit that stocks our freeze all winter comes from. We just assumed that the local company we buy from sells local berries. While I’m not about to give up mangos, lemons, coffee and coconut, I realize I’ve been taking a lot on faith and need to ask more questions before dropping produce in the cart.
To help with your local purchase choices, Hellman’s lists in-season ingredients by province on their Eat Real, Eat Local site. Your Farmers’ Market website or Greenbelt Fresh can also provide information about seasonal and local produce. If you live in Quebec, SOS Cuisine is an outstanding source for seasonal food. I’m not sure what sites exist for US readers, but if you know of any, please post the link in the comments section and I’ll set up a link section listing local food sites for both countries.
Or you could take matters into your own hands like BBS did. He writes:
The Essex County Federation of Agriculture recently published a Local Foods map. It’s limited in some ways as they only published those sources who paid to be included in the map. Nevertheless, it’s a good start. They published 20,000 hard copies of the map for distribution. I took the locations they had listed on the map and created an Essex County Local Food Map using Google Maps. Every location listed on the map was also invited as collaborators. Initially the map drew around 2 to 3 thousand views, which then drew the interest of the Federation. They have since included the map on their website and the views are now over 21,000.
I’m currently working on filling out enhanced profiles for each of the locations. As well, several other local food enthusiasts have joined up and we’re planning a second free online version of the map that will include all the local food sources that we can find.
Google Maps is a great free resource that can be utilized anywhere to create your own local food map. Hard copy maps are great, but they can be expensive and time consuming to create. This is a simple free solution that can then be shared online through blogs, websites, Facebook and other social media sites. If anyone is interested in setting up or promoting their own local map online, I’d be more than happy to help.
Almost forgot –here’s a quick and rough example of how you can also use Google to create your own free site to help promote your map.
I know I recently wrote about eating local and many of you, like BBS, weighed in on the topic, but I’m curious, does a video like this drive home the reality better? Or do we just need to keep talking about the topic to keep it in the front of our brains? Or have we talked about it so much you’d eat Chinese garlic to shut me up?