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Enjoying a 100-mile meal in Grafton

Cecilia Nasmith

By Cecilia Nasmith, Northumberland Today

Postmedia Network File Photo.

Postmedia Network File Photo.

GRAFTON -- Putting the "10th Anniversary 2017" stickers on the shopping bags they hand out as you enter the annual 100 Mile Diet event was a proud moment for June Mallory.

Along with Bev Silk, Mallory has been on the organizing committee all 10 years. Both are members of St. Andrew's United Church in Grafton, which is behind the initiative.

As she helped volunteer Sharon Brown hand a bag to each visitorSunday, Mallory commented that the 30 vendors filling the Haldimand Memorial Arena was an all-time high, and that the chefs always do a great job.

Silk, who circulated to do a rough numbers count, would eventually tally about 727 visitors. She would also count $1,120.45 given at the door as a free-will donation for Northumberland Food For Thought's school-nutrition program.

Vendors of natural fibres and soaps, local produce and other farm products were set up to offer samples and sell goods. They also had the opportunity to tell visitors all about the processes through which their wares are made and answer questions about them.

This is in line with the philosophy behind the 100 Mile Diet, which calls on everyone to focus on doing their shopping from producers within 100 miles of home. This allows you to know more about the food you give your family, keep your money within your own community, and reduce the environmental impact made by having to truck foodstuffs long distances to get them into your supermarket.

Discovering what's available from local producers is always fun and sometimes surprising -- like the personal-care and snack products produced by the Haute Goat farm and the ground elk and bison burgers available from Century Game Park.

Information booths were also set up to allow people to learn more about important local organizations like the Grafton and Brighton horticultural societies, the Northumberland County Blue Dot group and the Port Hope Northumberland Community Health Centre.

Chef Steve Benns of Fleming College (the son of Alnwick-Haldimand Township Coun. Ray Benns) has offered demonstrations at every one of the 100 Mile Diet events to date. With a basket of fresh vegetables at his elbow, as well as a rank of empty paper plates nearby, he prepared to make a cauliflower salad.

At the next table, community dietitian Adam Hudson of the Port Hope Northumberland Community Health Centre was back for his sixth year, getting ready to demonstrate a tomato salad with grilled baguettes, fresh oregano and a good balsamic dressing.

And for those who made the circuit and wanted a break, a corner was set aside where you could sit and purchase a coffee and (if you'd brought along little ones) let the kids play with toys in a wading pool filled with corn grains.

It was all in line not only with the 100 Mile philosophy, but also with a display board someone had set up naming the top 10 best things about a farmers' market.

  • The food comes with a story.
  • You can ask the grower questions, from exactly how hot a pepper is to whether a potato is suitable for hash browns.
  • You can get gardening tips from people who grow food for a living.
  • Buying food grown locally reduces your carbon footprint.
  • Your purchase supports the grower instead of the middle man, putting that money back into your own community.
  • The chance to sample sometimes lets you discover varieties of product you may not have encountered before.
  • It keeps farmland from being sold for subdivisions.
  • You'll more likely encounter a friendly greeting and a cigar box with change in it than beeping scanners and chiming registers.
  • What music you hear is played by people instead of by a Muzak system.
  • You can bring along your dog.

cnasmith@postmedia.com