Fernie's 100 Miles

In recent years, there is increasing knowledge and awareness about eating locally grown food. Not only does this effort help build more locally based, self-reliant food economies, it reduces greenhouse gas emissions released from the production, packing, processing, transport, preparation and waste of food.

From this concept, the 100-mile diet was born. Two Vancouverites spent a year eating food that was only grown within a 100-mile radius of their downtown apartment. Commodoties like sugar and wheat, and other “necessities” like chocolate and coffee were not available to them. You might think that living in Fernie would make the 100-mile diet idea virtually impossible. After all, we have a cold climate with a short growing season and limited food resources readily available close to home.

Let's explore our 100-mile radius a little bit. From Fernie, our radius includes Nelson and Creston to the west, the northeast corner of Idaho and Kalispell, Montana to the south, Pincher Creek and Lethbridge to the east, and Okotoks and Invermere to the north. When you think about it, we are actually very fortunate to be within a radius that includes a wide diversity of ecoregions - from the prairies to the alpine meadows to the fruit belt of the Creston Valley.

One of the most immediate and gratifying ways to eat locally grown food is to grow your own fruits and vegetables, and to forage in the forest for edible delights. Primitive necessities like hunting and gathering have new meaning and significance today with earth-lovers who are trying to tread gently on the planet.

A cold climate does not mean we are reduced to eating from our gardens during the frost-free period. Preserving our produce to last well into the winter months is very viable. Blanching and freezing crops such as chard, spinach, peas, corn, kale and zucchini, canning tomatoes, apples, and stone fruits, pickling cucumbers, cabbages, and onions, root cellaring potatoes, carrots and winter squashes, drying herbs, garlic and beans, and making jams, chutneys, soups, sauces, salsa and pesto are but a few of the options available to us to savour home-grown goods. Gardening methods such as using a cold frame, hoop-house, and greenhouse, as well as starting seeds indoors, also allow us to extend our growing season.

Even if you only have a small balcony you can plant some herbs, salad greens and cherry tomatoes to add to your plate. Alternatively you can get a plot at the Fernie Community EcoGarden to grow some of your own produce.

If gardening isn't your thing, the local farmer's markets (Baynes Lake – Saturdays; Fernie – Sundays) allow you to buy local food. As well, you can buy in bulk and preserve, forage for berries and other edible wonders in your own backyard, and obtain a fishing or hunting license.

Remember that eating local food is simply better for you. It tastes better, it gives you a better opportunity to know exactly what you are eating, you eat what's in season thereby decreasing your carbon footprint, you give back to the local economy, you consume a healthier diet, you discover new flavours, and explore your own backyard. By choosing to eat local food you are doing your part to minimize your impact on the planet.

Make a commitment to local food that you can realistically achieve – whether it's 50% of your diet for 3 months, 100% of your diet for a week, or a evening potluck with friends that is made with only local food. Try it out! You might just surprise yourself with what you can grow, what is locally available to buy, and how rewarding it is to support the local economy.