Local import-ance
//Adélie Houle-Lachance, Columnist

Last summer, 19 inspired and slightly crazed individuals went on a 2,000 kilometres cyclo-touring adventure that took them all around Ontario. Their name: The Otesha Project's Ferocious Farm Tour. Their goal: to perform plays about sustainability, and empower youth to ask questions about the world they live in. All the while they cycled from town to town, with whatever personal belongings could be carried and strapped onto a bicycle. They also visited farms, where they helped farmers in their gardens, learned about where food comes from, the issues local farmers face and about the whole system surrounding the growth and consumption of food. I was one of these 19 bright eyed, sun-burned smiling faces, and one of the biggest lessons I drew from my experience was the importance of buying local. Not only that, but also the importance of supporting, producing and thinking local, especially when it comes to food. For the sake of this column, I’ll focus on the latter.

Here’s a reality check: tomatoes do not grow at Safeway. In fact, most fruits and vegetables are not even close to edible when they are harvested and processed for packaging and shipping. They are transported in an environment that's been technologically tempered with, where the gas and temperature does not allow the item to ripen until its arrival. Take a tomato out of the produce bin – if it comes from somewhere far away like Chile, or even somewhere relatively close like California, know that the chances it has been mechanically ripened using gas are high.

According to research done by World Watch, results have shown that the ingredients used in the average American meal travel on average from 2,500 and 4,000 kilometres, this being an increase of 25 per cent from the average kilometres travelled in 1980. When considering the amounts of petroleum alone used in the whole transportation process, it’s evident that the environmental consequences of this practice are overwhelming.

In the words of Graeme Ruppel, head chef of the Brooklyn Warehouse and supporter of local food initiatives, “seasonal, local cuisine is not a new idea. It is the way things have always been, we just lost sight of that when refrigeration came along. The ability to transport, and maintain foods edibility, across long distance is truly a marvel, and has greatly expanded our diet. But it does come at a cost.”

And these costs are becoming exponentially more expensive, sinking the payees (us) further into the environmental and social red.

Take a trip to the farmer's market, even in the winter, and get to know your local farmer. Find out how they grew their food, know exactly what went into it and most of all taste the difference. An in-season strawberry that's been hand-picked at its prime ripeness and grown naturally, without the use of fertilizers, tastes 100 times better than an out of season, chemical-induced strawberry. The first is juicier, sweeter, more dense in flavour, smells better and is even more colourful than the second.

Our bodies and environment benefit more from consuming in season, naturally grown and harvested food than out of season, chemically grown and manufactured food.

Logical, isn't it?

It's almost so simple that we had to disrupt and re-create the whole structure into a more complicated, profit-oriented and morally backwards one.

If the true costs of produce that we buy on the marketplace – fruits, vegetables, even meat, dairy and grain, was truly represented in the undervalued price they are marked at, we would be much less keen to purchase them. If these “externalities” (as economics like to call them) were rightfully reflected in the amount of money we pay out of our pocket, we would not consider our food items as commodities. We’re voting with our dollars, here.

But this doesn’t only apply to food. Similar arguments go for other “commodities” like clothing, accessories, soaps and bathroom products – the list of what can be purchased locally goes on. By buying local, you are supporting not only the local artists in your community, but also an economy that is self-sustaining and built on frameworks other than competition and greed.

Would you rather eat food that's been grown with love and care and positive energy, or food that's been handled in a sterile and robotic, low frequency environment? Even things like human connections can benefit. How many genuine social interactions do you engage in at Superstore?

As always, the choice is yours.

//Adélie Houle-Lachance, Columnist

Adélie thinks that the world is a beautiful place, and she is almost always happy or excited about something. When she’s not writing about the state of unrest where she sees our society, she does other fun things, such as news writing, circus arts and spreading positive change in her community. She is also the one to talk to for a delicious vegan cookie recipe.

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