Posted by: Rabideye | June 15, 2009

It’s NOT an all-or-nothing deal


When people are first confronted by the “50-Mile Diet” concept, you can see the wheels turning in their mind: what in God’s name would I eat? The next thought is usually one of preemptive longing for things that can’t easily be had within 50 miles of here: chocolate, coffee, black tea, sugar, citrus, and then there’s the meat and cheese…

The 50 mile distance  takes you some way toward fulfilling your daily needs and wants, including fertile areas around the Comox Valley, Nanaimo, Sechelt and Gibsons. But don’t forget that it’s not an all-or-nothing proposal: you can choose to eat 25%, 50%, 75%, 95% or 100% “local” (50 miles as the eagle flies). How you justify the 50% is really up to you (i.e. by physical or flavour weight: a tomato sandwich is arguably 50% local if your tomato is from your garden. And if you or a local baker made the bread with non-local flour, then there’s still the local value-added aspect as well.

Yes, it can get complicated if you let it.

But remember that the 50-Mile  Eat Local Challenge is largely about awareness. Yet, while it’s ‘the thought that counts’, it is expected that your ‘thoughts’ will flow into your food choices at the supermarket — and year-round — enticing you to eat fresher, healthier local food that contributes to the local economy, reduces our carbon footprint and increases our food security in the region.

Here are some basic tips on how to ease into the Challenge that you can start on right now.

1- Plant something you like to eat — and don’t forget the herbs that can be used as seasoning for your non-5o Mile treats. Easy-to-grow vegetables include potatoes, parsley, oregano, onions, chives, beans, garlic, lettuce and greens in general. You can start these now, and preferable from plant starts. Enlarge your garden — potatoes will grow in just about any quality of soil as long as it’s not too compacted, so try some lasagne gardening with that pile of rotting compost.

See here for how:

2- Shop at the Open-Air Market: it’s the easiest way to ensure your food is local; for your best veggie fix, attend nice and early on Saturdays (10:30 am). Note that the market also has plant starts, local eggs, some local meat, local preserves and local honey.

3- Keep an eye peeled for signage that directs you to farms in the area that sell to passers-by; there are a few. Let the farmer know you are willing to pick your own produce — maybe you’ll get a better deal and/or first pick.

4- If you are shopping at local supermarkets, then look at where the food is coming from and try to buy produce that was grown closest to us. Voice your concern or leave comments in grocery stores related to your local food needs.

5- Connect with Community or Demonstration Gardens; you can learn new gardening skills and share in the bounty.

6- Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)– a member-supported farm or investigate whether you can ‘adopt’  a chicken or rabbit and either raise them yourself or allow a local farm to raise it for you.

7- Explore New Foods: some veggies grow incredibly well with the soil quality you or your neighbours or local farmers already have: learn to love what grows well. I found that radicchio grows super-well in my garden, but it is bitter and some people are turned off by that. However, knowing how to cook a ‘difficult’ vegetable can make all the difference. Sauté a local onion and add a few tablespoons of non-local balsamic vinegar and some local honey in a pan, reduce this, add salt/pepper and then the shredded radicchio, cover for a bit. The flavour is transformed into a meaty sweet, sour and bitter fiesta for your tongue that goes fabulously well with a local bean salad.

8- Think SPROUTS. If you are a vegetarian, you may find your protein through sprouting grains or legumes (local is best, but you do gain the ‘value-added’ aspect even if they are non-local). Check out:

9- Look for local restaurants that use 50-mile ingredients or better yet, that have a 50-mile dish (more on this soon)

10- Buy LOTS of whatever you find that is local; barter, trade, borrow and beg. Ask if your neighbour now if you can ‘reserve’ part of their crop when you need it, in exchange for money, chores or good-will.

11- Share your experiences! This blog is here to allow you to voice your concerns, ideas, tips, pleasures and general experiences during the 50 days of the Challenge (Aug 9 – Sept 27) as well as during the 50 days leading up to the Challenge… meaning now. Feel free to advise fellow 50-milers of where to get some local 50-mile food, recipes or just to offer support. We can accept all kinds of media (audio, video, pictures, drawings…) to post these up. Subscribe to this blog or leave a comment under this article, Facebook with us, reach us via email at or Mon-Fri by phone: David at 604.485.2004

So, it’s time to start thinking like a real-live  locavore!




  1. Is there a CSA here in Powell River?

    • Yes-
      It’s Cathy Joy’s Organic Gardening.
      (based in the Wildwood neighbourhood)

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