The cachet of eating locally grown food hit home for me after a recent visit to New York City. Our son was working there and we had a chance to visit on his birthday, which called for a special celebration. Of the myriad of fine restaurants he could have chosen, he chose Blue Hill in trendy Soho. It is a one-star Michelin restaurant, which means very high standards. Blue Hill is famous not only due to a recent visit specifically requested by President Barack Obama, but for sourcing most of its food seasonally and locally from their own farm in Connecticut.
When experiencing fine dining, it is expected that the server brings the wine to the table and explains the virtues of that particular vintage. For Blue Hill, I was surprised when servers came out with whole parsnips attractively displayed on a platter to show guests the vegetables from the farm and eloquently explain the type of parsnip and how it was used in the cuisine. This continued throughout the meal with presentations of other local ingredients like eggs and cheese. I was delighted that local food had reached this level of attention but local food is much more than a trend – it benefits our environment, our economy, and has social/cultural and nutritional benefits as well.
Most greenhouse gasses produced in agriculture come from the inputs required to grow, process and transport food. On average, about seven per cent can be attributed to transportation. Buying local food in season and organically whenever possible creates less greenhouse gasses.
The economic benefits are even more compelling. More money stays in the community and support for local agriculture creates local jobs. More jobs in agriculture helps to make it a more attractive and sustainable profession and this, in turn, can reduce our reliance on imported food.
The social and cultural benefits of local food are often not as easily recognized. Some of the fondest memories my children and I have are growing and harvesting our garden. I will never forget the pride I saw when they held up a bunch of carrots or the excitement – equal to finding treasure – when they dug up potatoes. In addition, our First Nations traditional local foods are steeped in custom and culture.
Finally, the longer fruit and vegetables can be kept in the field and then picked at their peak the better the nutritional content. Fresh fruits and vegetables at their peak taste better too – you can’t beat juicy warm tomatoes off the vine or a fresh pod of raw peas. So enjoy and support local food whether you grow it yourself, buy it locally, or ask that local food be included at your favorite restaurant.
– Rose Soneff is a community nutritionist with Interior Health