Submitted by Columbia Valley Food and Farm

Local food is easy to define, right? Most of us think of local food as food purchased close to where it is grown. This might mean buying locally grown food directly from a farmer, at a farmers’ market or at your favourite food shop. Or eating a delicious dish made with locally sourced ingredients at your favourite café. But how do we define “close”? Is there a set distance? 10 metres? 10 km? 50 km? Well, the distance used to define what can be called “local” can vary greatly, and you might be surprised at what is considered “local”!

Remember the enormously popular book “The 100-Mile Diet – A Year of Local Eating” by J.B. MacKinnon and Alisa Smith? Smith and MacKinnon documented their experience of eating a diet of only foods grown or raised within 100 miles of their Vancouver home for a year. Their definition of local was pretty clear, with strict boundaries. Their story played a role in the explosion of interest in the local food movement in B.C. and across Canada.

Others, like the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), throw a wider net and define local food as foods grown within the province where it is sold or within 50 km of the border of that province. According to the CFIA, this means that mushrooms grown in the Fraser Valley and turned into an omelet in the Columbia Valley are technically local. Some national grocery chains spread that net even wider and define foods grown within Canada as local. Not so easy to pin down the definition of “local food” after all, is it?

And, to make things even more confusing, the rise in popularity of the “eat local” movement over the past decade has brought with it local food advertising and marketing campaigns that don’t always tell the truth. “Local-washing,” a term derived from “green-washing” which means to claim a product is environmentally friendly when it is not, has come to define misinformation around local food. So, how do we know if food is really local? You need to ask. Learn about the farms in your area. Meet the people who grow your food. 

How do we define local food in the Columbia Valley? Good question and one that we at Columbia Valley Food and Farm have analyzed and argued about over the years while compiling and publishing our Food and Farm Guide. 

We have been involved in a local food guide in collaboration with like-minded organizations in the Columbia Valley and around the Kootenays since 2007. Over the years, our boundaries have changed, but our vision has remained the same; a thriving local food system in the Columbia Valley. 

In 2020, we decided to feature local food processors and local food served in restaurants and cafés, alongside the local food producers in our guide. Specialty food products have become a thriving sector of our economy. From coffee to pickles, breads, cookies, pies, jams, honey and craft beer and spirits, the Columbia Valley is becoming known for its delicious food offerings. We want you to know about them too. We also want you to know which restaurants are supporting our local producers and where to purchase food from our local growers and ranchers. A healthy community includes a thriving local food system, and while we know that the Columbia Valley cannot provide us with all of our food needs 365 days per year, the more we do to support our local producers and processors, the closer we can come to being a food secure Valley.

If you would like a complimentary copy of the Columbia Valley Food and Farm Guide, it can be found at various locations around the Valley; Valley Foods, Circle Market and Café, Pynelogs Cultural Centre, From Scratch- A Mountain Kitchen, Edibles Café, the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce and more.

If you would like to be listed in the guide, please get in touch at [email protected].

For an online version of the guide, visit: www.foodandfarm.ca