By Adrienne Roman
Initiatives promoting healthier eating and environmental protection are finally gaining momentum around the world. A number of industries are now endorsing a locavore lifestyle, a combination of the word “local” with the suffix “vore,” referring to either a plant-eating herbivore or meat-eating carnivore.
The movement, which began in 2005 with a group of health-focused food enthusiasts in San Francisco, promotes eating as locally as possible with foods that are grown and prepared within 100 miles of home, while attempting to limit or completely eliminate non-local products. Sustainable farm-to-table food systems are being established, raising conscious thought about the countless advantages of eating fresh over “tired” food, and bringing attention to the detrimental carbon cost that “food miles” have on our environment.
The locavore ideology follows “community-supported agriculture,” or CSA, a farming model built on transparency. It works to build the bridges that connect us to fresh food choices, eliminating distributor costs for the consumer, and supplying direct wages to farmers.
There’s no denying industrialized agriculture is experiencing a crisis, and global communities are migrating back to the most logical solution, discovering the bounties that can be found in local food and drink. This shift in consciousness has also highlighted a focus on the need to ensure ethical farm practices and the importance of knowing exactly how food reaches our table. Urban landscapes are being transformed back into lush vegetable gardens, and indoor greenhouses can be utilized for seasonal fruits and vegetables that can be grown in winter.
Fairmont Hotels and Resorts are dedicated to reducing their footprint and supporting the CSA model, with the addition of their “Bee Sustainable” program in 2008, adding a honeybee apiary to the 14th floor of the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto, and establishing themselves as the very first hotel in the world to promote and protect them, all within a city centre. As the pollinators of 1000 of the 1200 varieties of crops that provide 80% of human food, bees play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of our ecosystem. An essential link in our food security, they enable the constant growth and reproduction of flowers, plants, and trees.
Beekeeper Melanie Coates of the Toronto BeeKeepers Collective runs Royal York’s apiary of 500,000 bees, which reside in six onsite beehives and produce an average of 450 pounds of honey per year. Not only does the honey provide sweet magic for an array of mouth-watering recipes, the Royal York’s executive chef, jW Foster, and his colleagues also carefully tend to a rooftop garden filled with 45 varieties of herbs, fruits and vegetables. He’s dedicated to showcasing locally sourced menu items, managing energy and water conservation, and demonstrating a strong stewardship that’s globally echoed by progressive businesses wanting to forge ahead with positive change.
Before the convenience of grocery stores and the overwhelming demands of consumerist culture, Indigenous communities adopted a “Three Sisters” method to farming their primary crops of corn, squash, and beans. The corn stalks provided the perfect place for the beans to grow, while the squash plants protected them from weed growth along the ground. The nitrogen-rich beans and the mulch from the squash leaves created a microclimate that retained just the right amount of moisture in the soil. The cross-pollination of the people, the land, and their multi-dimensional relationships with food sustained their communities throughout the entire year.
Unfortunately, many of today’s food choices are often seriously lacking in nutrient-dense ingredients, and saturated with an abundance of toxic ones that dominate supermarket shelves. Convenience foods high in unhealthy fats, sugars, and salt are around every corner; but luckily, so are the healthier options.
There are common threads of knowledge in the culinary wisdom transmitted across cultures and vast geographic regions, and the secrets they hold about how to successfully meet our nutritional needs are completely accessible, as is the capability to grow our own food and enjoy seasonally fresh options. Creating a healthier and more efficient global food cycle is achievable – from growing, to preparing and processing, to consumption and recycling.
Systemic change is ignited through information, education, and action. Fresh “fast food” recipes can be created just as easily with better ingredients; it’s just a matter of reaching for the healthier choice. Try to source local fruits, vegetables, and pasture-raised, antibiotic and hormone-free meats whenever possible. Make purchasing decisions that support local farmers. Investing locally recirculates wealth within the community and creates jobs, helps to farm the land, and ensures the regeneration and continuity of the food system as a whole.
Adopting a “kincentric” worldview, where humans are closely related to other natural entities, is a powerful first step. People connect through food. It’s so much more than just what’s on your plate – it’s a way of life.
Some of the ways you can Live Locavore:
• Find out which restaurants in your area support local farmers, and dine there.
• Search for a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program and invest in a farm: a farmer will provide a weekly box of assorted vegetables and farm products in return.
• Visit local businesses and make connections with your community.
• Seek out local vendors with fresh food options whenever possible.
• Think about ways to eliminate waste and use glass instead of plastic.
• Grow your own garden, and make preserves.
• Shop at local farms and farmer’s markets.
• Volunteer or work to help a local vendor sell.
Waterdown Farmers Market
• Saturdays 8am – 1pm
• May 28 – October 15
• 79 Hamilton St N
Aldershot BIA Farmers Market
• Biweekly on Tuesdays 3pm – 7pm
• July 5 – September 27
• 195 Plains Road E
Burlington Centre Lions Farmers Market
• Wednesdays 8am – 2pm
• Fridays 8am – 3pm
• Saturdays 8am – 2pm
• 777 Guelph Line
Dorval Crossing Civitan Farmers Market
• Saturdays 8am – 1:30pm
• May – November
• 240 North Service Rd W
Port Credit Farmers Market
• Saturdays 8am – 2pm
• June 4 – October 8
• 200 Lakeshore Rd E at Elmwood Ave
The Leslieville Farmers Market
• Sundays 9am – 2pm
• May – October
• 150 Greenwood Ave
Wychwood Barns Farmers Market
• Saturdays 8am – 1pm
• 601 Christie St