If you live for lattes, waking up to a steaming cup of local lavender tea might sound hard to swallow. Get past the lack of coffee, though, and you’ll find that there’s lots to love about only consuming foods that come from within a 100-mile radius of your home. “Is it possible, in a global age, in an age of fast food, to live off the land that surrounds us?” asked authors Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon in their book, The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating. If you’re ready to shake up your habits, then the answer is a resounding “yes!”.
We live in an area teeming with farms and food artisans, so eating locally is an attainable goal and some local businesses are embracing that reality. As Chef and Owner of co.unity kitchen in Aurora, Lisa Mueller explains, “One of our core values is to support local businesses. Utilizing local producers for our foods, or distributors that help connect us to those producers, is a priority.”
One challenge for consumers though is that we’re so spoiled for choice — used to grabbing imported, packaged goods right and left off supermarket shelves. The key to embracing the 100-mile diet is forgoing imports in favour of local. Mueller adds “I think if we make an effort to connect with community and do a little research on what we grow locally, we develop greater respect for our food. We choose to highlight all the ‘good things that are grown in Ontario’ by having very seasonally focused menus.” she continues. For us as consumers, it’s easy to ask the restaurants we patronize about their efforts to source locally.
The benefits of this local food focus can have other impacts as well. Mueller shares “I often get asked the meaning of co.unity…it is my expression of community and more simply, how it embodies ’togetherness’. I feel working closely with the community, with a focus on local helps better everyone’s ability to thrive.”
Any 100-mile-diet-meal can begin with a visit to the local grocery store to explore produce featuring the “Foodland Ontario” symbol and milk products with a “Dairy Farmers of Ontario” label. That’s an easy place to begin targeting local goods. Nature’s Emporium, Longo’s, Vince’s and Oak Ridges Food Market all have plenty to choose from.
The hunt for quality Ontario meat will lead you to shops such as Maunder’s in Aurora, Micatoni’s in Oak Ridges and Peter’s Food Shop in Aurora where myriad cuts of Ontario pork, poultry, lamb and prepared foods await. With Ontario-sourced rainbow trout, Off The Hook in Oak Ridges is another option if fish is on the menu. If you’re looking for something unique try King Cole Ducks just east of Aurora, a family-owned egg-to-plate duck farm. Their on-site store has plenty of duck options to choose from. Too tired to shop? Let a company like 100km Foods or MamaEarth Organics connect you to high-end meat and fish, produce, dairy, jams, and juices from nearby farms and suppliers.
Baked goods that truly fit the 100-mile definition require rolling up your sleeves after a trip to a flour mill like K2 Milling in Beeton for locally-grown and processed flour. Relax the rules a little and you can enjoy breads and sweets from neighbourhood bakeries including Aurora’s Hurst Bakery and Yummy Bakery or Newmarket’s Nutmeg Bakeshop. You’ll find local independent coffee shops carry locally baked items too; check out The Roost Café in King City and Cardinal Press in Newmarket.
Once the food is sorted, it’s time to focus on drinks. Local ciders and wines from Ernest Cider Co., Applewood Farm Winery, Holland Marsh Winery and craft beers from Market Brewery and Red Thread are a perfect addition to any 100-mile menu. Local craft brewer Red Thread Brewing creates their Make Tracks all-natural lager with hops from the Collingwood area, and their Barrel Series 1 ale is made with malt from Ontario’s only craft maltery, Barn Owl Malt near Stirling. For stronger sipping, turn to Flyte vodka from Newmarket or Stillwaters Distillery from Concord, makers of Stalk & Barrel whiskies. Beyond our immediate area, Niagara’s wineries offer tempting bottles in a variety of styles.
It takes a little effort but eating locally supports farmers and the community, delivers fresher, more nutritious meals to your table and is better for the planet. As Morris Gervais of Barrie Hill Farms near Barrie says, “if you’re choosing local food, you are truly voting with your food dollars.” And if you just can’t live without that cup of joe? Take baby steps toward a 100-mile diet; you’ll be surprised where they take you.
Oak Ridge’s Food Market
Maunder’s Food Shop
Peter’s Food Shop
Micatoni’s Gourmet Foods & Butchery
Off The Hook
King Cole Ducks
Ernest Cider Co.
Applewood Farm Winery
Holland Marsh Winery
Market Brewing Co.
Barrie Hill Farms