Posted by: nolapoirier | August 4, 2010

Take part in the Best Tasting Game in Town

Home-grown flavours

by Nola Poirier

What do you get when you mix fresh garden tomatoes, sweet red pepper, garlic, cucumber and some tasty herbs in a blender?

If you toss in olive oil and a dash of red wine vinegar, you get a yummy, summery, cold soup made from ingredients that can all be locally grown – and you get some distance towards meeting the 50-mile local eating challenge too.

For the past five years, Powell River has hosted the 50 Mile Diet, in which participants pledge that for 50 days at least 50 percent of their food will be grown or raised within 50 miles of home. It might sound daunting, but in this land of plenty, it’s deliciously possible.

Lyn Adamson started the challenge back in 2005 with a vision “that people … would start to understand the value in eating locally, in supporting their local farmers, and would have a common language so they could have conversations about the value of local, healthy food.” Of that first year Lyn says, “we hoped for 50 participants – but 273 people signed up!” The challenge has continued to evolve and is now coordinated by David Parkinson and a small posse of volunteers through the Powell River Food Security Project.

Local food production is on the rise in Powell River, as people dig down to the roots of where their food comes from. In fact, across North America, more people are adding food crops to their home gardens, frequenting farmer’s markets, and eating foods in season. And Powell River is a particularly good growing location. Our temperate climate makes for a nearly year round harvest and supports a profusion of local produce including: olives, kiwis, apples, figs, berries, squashes, greens, mushrooms, and mouth-watering, just-plucked peaches. For some there is also the ocean to harvest from, as well as a variety of other wild and domesticated animal foods.

Depending on where you live within this region, the 50-mile radius includes all of the north and most of the southern Sunshine Coast, Texada Island, Comox, Nanaimo, and areas between. And remember, you still have 50 percent of your food that can come from farther away.

Of course, as with many things in life, there is some give and take. The ‘take’ includes: fresh produce in the peak of its season, delicious products like teas, chutneys, jams, and dried goods from local ingredients; food security, and a stronger and more diverse local economy.

In most cases what you give up will include the massive amounts of petrochemical inputs, carbon emissions and water used to grow and transport large-scale agricultural products.

But I will admit it’s not all sunshine and vines of lollipop tomatoes. There are a few foods that aren’t easy to find. Powell River doesn’t yet have commercially available grains; sweeteners are limited to stevia, fruit syrups, honey and perhaps a few litres of tree syrup; and local coffee, lemons and avocados don’t really exist. But while these things aren’t readily available yet, none of them is impossible to have here.

I moved to Powell River from Vancouver with the goal of growing more food and shrinking my ecological footprint. I use the 50-Mile Diet as a tool to remind me of how far I’ve come, and where I’m still aiming to get. For anyone new to local eating, it’s a fun way to challenge yourself, meet people, and source fantastic local foodstuffs. Starting next week, I will be tracking my progress, and the progress of other 50-mile dieters, with a weekly Peak blog post that explores some of the highlights and challenges of local eating.

This year’s 50 Mile Diet runs from Aug. 8 to Sept. 26, kicking off with the 2nd Annual Edible Garden Tour on Sunday Aug. 8. For more information or to sign up, go to: https://pr50.wordpress.com/, email: powellriver50@gmail.com, or call 487 0807. And of course, stay tuned to The Peak blog to journey these 50 miles and days with me.

______

Article originally published in the Powell River Peak: http://prpeak.com/articles/2010/08/04/community/doc4c58cdb52b24b293386730.txt

Nola is a Powell River writer and director of Skookum Food Provisioners’ Cooperative.

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