Canadian couple promote their 100-mile diet

RIFLE — In 2005, J.B. MacKinnon and Alisa Smith set out to spend a year eating only food that had traveled less than 100 miles to reach their Vancouver home.

In the process, they identified the Pacific Coast’s Dungeness crab as one possible menu item.

Then, in an example of the global industrialization of the food industry, they found out some of the crab meat they were looking at buying had been sent to China for processing before being sold in North America.

“If we hadn’t asked enough questions, we would have been eating crab that had traveled 8,000 miles to get back to us,” MacKinnon said last week.

He and Smith came to Garfield County to speak to Colorado Mountain College campuses in connection with the Valley Read program, organized by the college and the Garfield County Public Library District.

MacKinnon and Smith are the authors of the program’s current book selection, “Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100 Mile Diet.”

They told how their dietary experiment has helped prompt buy-local efforts by individuals and communities in North America and abroad.

U.S. produce usually travels 1,500 miles from farm to plate, and that distance is even higher in Canada, Mac-
Kinnon said.

The couple learned of one Ontario carrot farmer whose local grocer stocked carrots from North Carolina instead of his produce, which in turn was being sold in that state.

The buy-local mission the couple decided somewhat spontaneously to undertake wasn’t without its challenges, such as giving up chocolate and beer and taking seven months to finally track down locally grown wheat.

“It was like an involuntary Atkins diet,” Smith said.

But the two came to discover the delights of farmers markets and various forms of local produce enjoyed at their peak of freshness and flavor as each crop came into season.

“We slowly realized it was turning into really the best year of eating we’d ever had,” MacKinnon said.

The two tell others interested in becoming “locavores” it’s not like being a vegetarian.

“You can choose to do more of it or less of it,” MacKinnon said.

The two now eat about 90 percent local food.

They run a Web site,, where some 15,000 people have taken a pledge to try to buy more locally grown food.

The site gives advice for getting started and shares more about Smith and MacKinnon’s experiences during a year of eating locally.


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