Food from the farm next door 

The average meal travels about 2,500 km to get to the average table.

Community supported agriculture generates smart produce that tastes great


By Glenda Bartosh

ItÕs about 1,800 km from the Fresno Valley, the heart of mega-agribusiness in California, to Vancouver. Depending on the truck and how itÕs loaded, your average loaded semi-truck-trailer uses 38 litres of diesel every 100 km. So figure about 6,800 litres of diesel is burned Ñ emitting all those glorious emissions diesel is famous for Ñ to haul a load of strawberries or spinach up from that California valley to a food distribution warehouse in Burnaby or Richmond. There itÕs sorted before being trucked again to retail stores.

And thatÕs the journey from just one mega-food source. Next time youÕre in the produce department of your favourite grocery store, check out the labels on the   boxes. Countries like Mexico, Chile, Argentina and Taiwan make California seem like a next-door neighbour.

For 101 reasons Ñ not least of which is our voracious demand for a greater variety of food on our dinner plates year-round Ñ food is travelling on some pretty wild journeys these days to keep us satisfied. The U.S.-based Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture calculates that in the U.S., the average meal travels about 2,500 km to get to the average table. Add a few more kilometres to bring it north of the 49 th parallel.

Some food takes an exceptionally crazy trip. For instance, those little packets of C&H sugar you use in your coffee on Maui have travelled about 18,000 km, even though the sugar is grown right there in the cane fields next to the island restaurant youÕre sitting in. After harvest, the ÒrawÓ sugar is shipped to California where itÕs processed, then to New York where itÕs packaged into those cute little envelopes. Finally, itÕs shipped back to Maui.

Speaking of Maui, those luscious tree-ripened papayas we love embody another growing food-sourcing problem. They must be shipped by air to get here in peak condition. Airfreight is fast but it also generates 50 times more carbon dioxide emissions than sea shipping.

At this point, the concept of community supported agriculture, or CSA, seems like a pretty bright idea. In a nutshell, CSA is the idea of local communities supporting local farmers by pledging so much money per month throughout the growing season so that the farmland becomes, either legally or philosophically, the communityÕs farm.

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