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Deconstructing Dinner: Reconstructing Our Food System
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Nelson Daily News

Nelson Daily News - 11.27.07

"Testing the limits of food; 100 MILE DIET:
A group of locals rise to the challenge and glimpse into the future of how we are going to eat"

The turkey hung there, upside down, staring blankly, unblinking.

It was being prepared to be killed after living a good, long life in a way only a turkey can live on a West Kootenay farm.

Logan Carlstrom stared back at the turkey, fixing it with the same unblinking stare, not really sure what was going to happen next with the large bird looking at him.

The 13-year-old helped string the bird up by its feet under a tree and at that point he was beginning to feel a "little queasy."

But death came quickly to the turkey, as it did to 14 other birds that day, butchered humanely in a time-honoured tradition for various customers in the West Kootenays.

But for the Carlstrom family, it wasn't enough to buy the bird from a grocer or a farmer, they wanted to see where it came from, appreciate the cycle of life where one life form gives itself up for another.

It was a small lesson in the 100-Mile Diet classroom, a challenge the Carlstroms had been extended by the Community Food Matters back in August. They were four of 150 people who elected to see if, for one month, they could eat foods grown and produced within 100 miles of where they resided.

Because of nutritionist mom, Lorraine, the Carlstroms has been eating quite a local diet already, said Logan.

"It didn't totally change our life," he said. "We were eating most of the things and I didn't have to give up anything."

In taking part in the turkey kill, Lorraine felt she and her children, including Mackenzie, 11, were glimpsing invaluable skills that many people intuitively knew two generations ago.

She felt eating local, eating healthy, dovetailed into an attitude whereby people had to relearn some of the skills of survival and self sufficiency. Not only was the 100-Mile Diet about eating and buying local, what was available here, it was about food security and learning to do things for yourself.

"This (diet) made me look around and to see what some of the roadblocks were in place because of legislation," she said. "We were trying to go more local but couldn't in some cases because we kept hitting roadblocks."

Provincial legislation prohibits local dairy farmers and now livestock growers to butcher and sell directly to the public. They instead have to send to a provincial-approved abattoir or dairy.

Lorraine sent letters to the province to have them relax legislation that was acceptable in some U.S. states. She wanted to see locally-raised, healthier food given prominence instead of regulated, shipped in food and see a local food system created.

A lack of a local food system can critically undermine a community, said Jon Steinman, host of Deconstructing Dinner on Kootenay Co-op Radio (Monday, 12-1 p.m., Thursday 6-7 p.m., 93.5 FM) and one of the organizers of the challenge.

"The real idea behind it all is where food is coming from... and what impacts that system has," he said. "A lot of people (in the challenge) became a lot more connected to their farmers and it was an natural thing that came out of it."

Community Food Matters, a group of local citizens concerned about food security, hosted a local food forum in November of 2006, a forerunner to the recent Future of Food in the Kootenays conference hosted at the Prestige Inn earlier this month.

It was in the fertile soil of Food Matters the challenge germinated as members wondered if others could experience eating locally, to immerse themselves into the idea.

It was an open-ended challenge, some going beyond just the food they ate to the household items they bought to others trying only to buy local produce that they could easily find. A geographical limit of 100 miles was chosen to encompass the area in which the food and goods would be drawn from, a number popularized by the book, 100- Mile Diet by James MacKinnon and Alyssa Smith.

People met each week to discuss their progress and compare notes, how they overcame challenges and what insights they may have found in the local economy.

"People found there were threats and barriers they faced to eating locally," said Steinman. "But they also found they became much more connected to the region."

People cut out imported things like bananas, mangoes, avocados, grains, oil and rice and turned to more local fruits like apples, potatoes, lettuce, using mashed apricots for salad dressing.

Taking on an eat-local challenge required people to spend more time in the kitchen initially, but it also led to some people going on a voyage of self discovery, said Steinman, and for some couples it brought them together in the kitchen.

The adage has held that local, organic food is healthier and will allow us to beat many of the health ailments we now suffer with today. With the Future of Food in the Kootenays conference having just completed in Nelson, where our food comes from and how we can achieve food security is a question many people are grappling with.

Struggling and finding answers, said one of the 100-Mile Diet challenge organizers, Marya Skrypiczajko, was part of the aim of the challenge. Some people in the challenge were finding the diet a great way to learn about the food system in our area, she said, and become an activist, like Carlstrom.

Some of the farmers Skrypiczajko spoke to said businesses that had never spoke to them now have contacted them and consider doing business with them. People were asking businesses to stock local food items and the businesses responded, Skrypiczajko said.

"We could consider this a success because of its impact on the local businesses and farmers," she said.

For some people, the challenge of the challenge caused them to overcome the hurdles, said Skrypiczajko. With very little available in the way of local grains, a group of people led by Matt Lowe formed a community supported agriculture group to contract local farmers to grow them grains.

The gauntlet was taken up by some people in response to the growing threat of global warming. With peak oil set to drive up the price of shipping produce from elsewhere, said Lorraine Carlstrom, and global warming threatening to turn the environment upside down, she knows change is inevitable.

"The challenge brought up that awareness of farmers and how they will be key once it becomes too expensive to ship food in," she said. "But I'm weak like everyone else and I like things like bananas. I'm definitely not going to feel like I have to continue to eat this way, but I still will."

LOOKING FOR ANSWERS?:

For anyone who has questions about eating local and would like to know more, Deconstructing Dinner's website has archived many topics relating to local food production (http://cdn.libsyn.com/ deconstructingdinner/).

(Copyright 2007 Nelson Daily News)


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