Eating grapes and green beans in winter isn’t all that
novel. We’re used to buying whatever we feel like all year
round. But some people are rejecting what’s convenient.
They’re going on a diet that means they can’t get what they
need from the supermarket. The GLRC’s Rebecca
Eating grapes and green beans in winter isn’t all that novel. We’re used to
buying whatever we feel like all year round. But some people are rejecting
what’s convenient. They’re going on a diet that means they can’t get what
they need from the supermarket. The GLRC’s Rebecca Williams explains:
When the snow flies, most of us will trudge to the store in heavy coats.
But Holley duMond will just be walking out to her freezer.
(Sound of footsteps and freezer opening)
“These are our fruits, we eat a ton of blueberries throughout the winter.
And all of that is ratatouille and then there’s corn. And then underneath here is the
beginning of our meat stores for the winter, but that will fill up to the
Holley duMond has her hands full. She and her husband have busy jobs and a
3 year old daughter. They also have a basement full of mason jars. As the
Michigan harvests come in, they spend four days a week buying locally-grown
cherries and sweet corn and squashes, and chopping and cooking and canning.
duMond says yeah, sometimes people call them crazy. But she’s proud that
even in the winter, her family gets half of their diet from local sources.
Holley duMond says at first, she just felt local food would be fresher and
healthier. Then, she says she learned how far most food travels. Some
recent studies say your average piece of produce travels 1500 miles from
field to store. duMond says she worries about the environmental costs of
shipping lettuce from California, or apples from New Zealand or China.
“We do believe that every dollar that we spend is a vote, and so I think politically
we’re helping to change some of the bigger systems that we just don’t like
and don’t appreciate.”
duMond says for her family, it’s been a gradual shift. They eat local meat
and produce but they still drink coffee and eat chocolate that’s shipped in
from far away.
But some local eaters make food buying sound like an Olympic contest. James
Mackinnon and his partner Alisa Smith spent a year on what they call the
“We were absolutely 100% hardcore about it by the end. In our house and
crossing our plates, by the end of last year there was absolutely nothing
that hadn’t been produced from within 100 miles.”
And that means every meal, every glass of wine, every spice, except for
salt. The couple started their experiment during a long cold spring in
their Vancouver apartment. Their first attempts didn’t exactly work out.
They ate potatoes and turnips and kale. They lost 15 pounds in six weeks.
They pulled all-nighters canning hundreds of pounds of vegetables.
But Mackinnon says things really started to turn around. Their 100-mile
diet grew rich on trout and salmon, fuzzy melon, wild mushrooms and
“A whole year of eating unprocessed foods made from scratch, picked at their
seasonal peak. We felt fantastic for the entire year. The year of the 100-Mile Diet was almost certainly the most diverse diet I’ve ever eaten.”
Mackinnon says he found nearby farmers growing delicious rare varieties of
tomatoes and apples that wouldn’t be economical for supermarkets to sell.
The ranks of local eaters are growing. A similar group of 100-mile eaters
sprung up independently in San Francisco. They call themselves “locavores,” as in local
And there are the 80 thousand members of Slow Food, a movement to defend traditional
foods and ways of cooking. They’re all firing back against one-stop shopping, but these
people say being truly devoted to local food is like an extra part-time job.
That’s because our food systems are not designed to be local. Rich Pirog
heads up the marketing and food systems program at the Leopold Center for
Sustainable Agriculture. He says after World War II, farmers were
encouraged to expand and specialize in just a couple of products such as
corn and soybeans:
“We’ve seen our food system become more specialized, food is traveling
farther distances, and as we have moved into the last two decades, we’ve
seen that shift to be even more global.”
Pirog says chances are, your supermarket apples are more likely to come from
China than your local orchard. He says pushing back against the global food
system is no easy feat, but he doesn’t think most locavores want to cut off
“But what they’re advocating is, I would say, is an incremental approach where
in season we provide more of the food that we are able to grow.”
Pirog says reviving 10 to 20 percent of local food sources could boost local
So, locavores near you are canning food instead of buying cans because they
think it might just be better tasting and it might be better for the earth.
For the GLRC, I’m Rebecca Williams.