Isabelle St. Germain knows a thing or two about buying local produce. The mother of a 2-year-old daughter, St. Germain works at Equiterre, an organization that develops projects that empower citizens to make environmentally and socially responsible choices.
One of its programs offers families the option of eating pesticide and chemical-free foods by supplying “organic food baskets” from local farms. St. Germain has been purchasing them for years. “By eating locally, I not only know where it is coming from but I can also establish how it is grown or raised, how much it is processed and how it is distributed,” she says.
St. Germain says she feels good reducing her environmental footprint by buying locally, since the long-distance transportation of fruit and vegetables grown and harvested in other countries contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.
The interest in buying locally produced food is gaining in popularity. Two years ago, four women coined the term “locavore” and encouraged local residents in San Francisco to eat only food grown or produced within a 100-mile radius. The “locavore” movement encourages consumers to buy from farmers’ markets or even to grow or pick their own food, arguing that fresh, local products are more nutritious and taste better. And just last year, the Oxford Dictionary declared “locavore” the word of the year.
Books such as The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating by Vancouver residents Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon, have since inspired “100 mile diet” clubs throughout North America.
American-based writer Barbara Kingsolver, in her recently published book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, documents her family’s year of trying to grow most of what they ate, with local purchases thrown in for variety. There is a section in the book that discusses Kingsolver’s visit to Montreal, where she raves about the city’s vast array of local markets. And according to St. Germain, it’s not impossible to enjoy locally produced foods all year round with a little planning, canning and freezing.
“When you start, it might seem complicated, but once you do it a couple of times, you just get into it,” she says. “It become part of your daily life.”
She says although she spends a lot of time preparing food for the family, she shops less than she used to. Her organic food farmer delivers fresh produce and eggs not only between June and October as most do, but also from October to March. For meat, she purchases lamb from another farmer, which comes ready-cut and frozen in bags. She rounds out the deliveries with in-season bulk purchasing at local markets, although she still buys honey, dried beans, yogurt, milk and cheese from small retailers and regular grocery stores. “I just choose organic and local products when I can,” she says.
Montreal public markets
These markets have retailers who sell a lot of local produce as well as exterior merchants (from April to October) who sell fruits and vegetables:
Marché de Lachine
1865 Notre Dame St., at the corner of 18th Ave.
4445 Ontario St. E., between Pie-IX and Viau.
138 Atwater Ave.
Marché Jean Talon
7070, Henri-Julien St. (just south of Jean Talon)
Other exterior markets:
At six metros:
Websites geared to “locavores”
This site includes information about year-round organic food baskets, a list of meat farmers as well as local and free trade retailers and producers.
A site with information on Montrel’s public markets
Jean Pronovost’s commission into agricultural sustainability in Quebec, which highlights many locavore concerns.
The site has a directory for merchants who import organic products.
Features chefs who use local products