Friday June 6, 2008

Keeping it local

by Mark T. Buss
Rhena Harold wants to take the phrase ‘keep it local’ to a whole new level.

Inspired by the book The 100-Mile Diet, the young Stonewall mother along with members of the Selkirk United Church will be holding an informational meeting at the church June 11 at 7 p.m. where they plan to educate consumers about the benefits of eating locally produced food and introducing them to the people who grow it.

“We thought it was a good idea to eat healthier and make a connection with local farmers to achieve that,” Harold said. “The feedback we’ve received from the producers has been good and hopefully we get a good turnout from the community about a topic that’s pretty important.”
The 100-Mile Diet, written by Alisa Smith and James McKinnon, is the story of the Vancouver couple dedicating one year of their lives to consuming food and drink only from within a 100-mile radius of their apartment.
The main reason for the life-altering move was the discovery that when the average North American sits down to eat, each ingredient typically travelled 1,500 miles before it reached the table.
Harold said other issues involving the support of family farms, healthier, fresher food – knowing how the food was grown – and a boost to the local economy are other reasons to eat local.

“I read the book and I started asking myself questions about the food my family was consuming,” Harold said. “The more I read and researched the topic the more I could see eating locally was the right answer.”
Looking to start her own 100-mile diet, Harold’s first question was how does one get started in the trek. Finding church members who agreed with her ideas, she enlisted several fruit, vegetable and meat producers in the area to attend the Wednesday night gathering, bring samples of their wares and inform attendees of their services. The list includes Ian Smith of Natural Pork in Argyle, Hidden Acres Heritage Farms of Petersfield, Devil’s Creek Herb and Berry Farm near Selkirk and the Jensen family’s Stoons N’ Stuff from Stonewall to name a few.
Selkirk United Church Minister Deborah Vitt said she is pleased the church is being used as the vessel for the gathering adding faith has an impact on the community outside the church doors as much as inside.
“Making a connection with farmers and putting a face perspective on this is important,” Vitt said. “People want to know how to support local farmers and feed their families, and this will do that.” Harold was also inspired by United Church minister Kathy Douglas of Niverville, who along with her partner and fellow padre Gary Clark, joined 130 other Manitobans as part of a 100-day 100-mile diet challenge in 2007.
Douglas said giving up things like sugar – as well as spices like cinnamon, curry and ginger – were difficult at first but she was able to supplement her sweet tooth with honey and maple syrup. She said being more aware of what she was eating became an empowering experience, and a healthy one and she and Clark both lost weight consuming no sugar, no additives and with no resulting waste with less packaging.
“With all the problems in the world we were able to consciously able to make an impact every day, three times a day,” Douglas said. “We ate everything we made.”
Douglas will also be putting in an appearance at Wednesday’s gathering to give her views on the process and conduct a question and answer period.

Smith ( supplied many of Winnipeg’s 100-mile dieters last year. He said the general public’s outlook of how food is processed has changed drastically over the last 30 to 40 years as the family farm has slowly disappeared.
He is convinced however that view is slowly turning as the baby boomer generation passes the torch to consumers more concerned about their health in what he calls a “green revolution”. “If you went to a school today and asked how many kids lived on farms where they grew their own food, you wouldn’t see as many hands go up as when I went to school,” Smith said. “But there’s been a change of generation. There was a gap but the current generation wants to know what they’re putting in their stomachs.”

NATURAL RAISED PORK 2008 * Information source: Selkirk Journal