Getting Started Guide

The Local Diet is simple. It’s a living experiment in local eating that will reconnect you with your food, your local farmers, the seasons, and the landscape you live in. The idea has caught on in a way that no one could have predicted. It’s the next frontier of food.

Here’s how to get started:

1. Start small.
You can start with a single meal, a 100-Mile day, a one-week commitment. Most people partner up, or do the 100-Mile Diet as a family or group.

2. There are no rules.
Make your 100-Mile Diet experiment a challenge. If you’re trying it for a day, consider getting tough: every ingredient in every product has to come from within 100 miles (that was our rule for a year). Over a longer period, escape clauses are nice. Maybe the occasional restaurant meal or dinner at friends’ houses? And what will you do if you travel? Ask some deeper questions, too. If you eat meat, where does the feed for the animals come from? If you’re vegetarian, would you be prepared to eat animal products if no beans or tofu are raised where you live? If you just can’t live without coffee, don’t let it stop you. Wave your magic wand and declare it ‘local.’

3. Surf the internet.
There are likely resources specific to your area, from lists of nearby organic farms to community kitchens where people get together to can foods. A great resource for Americans is Local Harvest, where you can find markets, local-food-friendly restaurants, farms, and food delivery programs for every region. Folks in the UK can visit BigBarn.

4. Find your farmers’ market.
The easiest and most fun step toward eating locally. Make the market a weekly priority for your food shopping. To find yours, search the web, look for listings in local newspapers, or call your area’s tourism office.

5. Find your farmers.
Most larger cities and many smaller towns have organic food delivery companies, often with direct connections to local farms. Consider joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, in which you support a specific farm by paying a lump sum at the beginning of each growing season and then sharing in that farm’s food products year-round. Most delivery and CSA programs have websites, or try contacting your regional organic certifying body or farmers’ association.

6. Start a garden — even a tiny one.
Self-sufficiency feels good, and greens up our cities and towns. We live in a one-bedroom urban apartment but grow vine beans, tomatoes and herbs in pots on our balcony. We also have a 3′x12′ plot in a community garden, which is run by a cooperative community group. Is there one in your neighborhood? If not, remember this: many began as ‘guerrilla gardens’ planted on longtime vacant lots.

7. Plan a winter garden.
Winter is a tough time to find local produce, but you might be surprised at what still can grow. Ask your gardening friends or at garden shops, or read through regional seed catalogues. We keep garlic, kale, mustard greens, turnips and cabbage going throughout the winter. Spinach and Swiss chard are other good winter greens. Friends as far north as Whitehorse, Yukon, have extended the growing season with a backyard greenhouse.

8. Buy in bulk and preserve.
Buying bulk saves money, and since it is often hard to find local preserves, you may have to do it yourself. Well, throw a party. With a few bottles of local wine and cider, even a small group can make quick work of canning jams, pickles, fruit and tomatoes. We also froze corn, spinach, carrots, basil pesto, beans, brussels sprouts and more. A cornucopia for the winter. Don’t know how to do any of this? Neither did we. Call up your elders before the knowledge is lost, try the local library, or go online with National Center for Home Food Preservation.