Amidst the holiday season’s weeks of plenty, it is interesting to note that two years ago a young couple, James and Alisa, faced the bountiful season with the challenge of eating food that was grown or raised within only a 100-mile radius of where they lived. They started their self-imposed experiment the previous spring after digesting the fact that most food travels nearly 1,500 miles from earth to table, often with a side trip to be packaged, which can delay the food several more days from absolute freshness. On the other hand, foods available at farmers’ markets average about 50 miles and are usually picked and sold within 24 hours. Transportation not only adds expense to food, but also creates a dependency on petroleum products. This disturbed the experimenters.

The lifestyle they lived for a full year has become known as the 100-Mile Diet Reasons for embarking on such radical deprivation may be difficult to understand if you are not familiar with the principles of the sustainable food movement. For more information visit

Fueled by support for local small farms and reaction against our dependency on foreign oil for food, James and Alisa sought to determine the difficulty involved in committing to eating food that came from within a 100-mile radius of their home. In their frequent blogs, they stated, “The 100-Mile Diet is about learning by doing. Getting to know the seasons. Understanding where our food comes from, and at what risk to our health and to the environment. Sorting out how we all ended up eating apples that taste like cardboard and cakes made with petrochemicals. It was a challenge, but a good one — a genuine adventure.” Maybe it was not such a “radical deprivation” at all.

Those who understand the seasonality of vegetables and fruits are careful about not choosing out-of-season produce because it tastes “out of season,” bland and weak.

Having “fresh” strawberries, asparagus or tomatoes year round is regarded as normal. However, it is not normal. More discouraging than the fact that this produce travels from South America in our coldest months, is the fact that many of us do not recognize these as “out of season.” Smart shoppers understand that the farther produce travels, more of its cost is in transportation, rather than production. In addition, food produced on small farms is frequently grown with less pesticide. That difference alone creates a healthier lifestyle.

Of course, this seems like an odd season to be extolling the virtues of eating seasonal and local foods. What area resources are available to Hoosiers from November through May? Our relatives lived off the land for a couple hundred years. However, in just a few generations we have lost our connections to the soil that feeds us. Many of our youth don’t know how a carrot grows, have never picked an apple from a tree or gently searched under a hen for a warm egg! While the chicken quest may take a bit more effort, there’s a simple solution to connecting directly to our food source.

This discussion has great implications for what has been politically labeled “food security,” that is, what would we eat if our supply of oil is cut off? Boston, which has about two-thirds of the population of Indianapolis, has been commended for being food-safe in a disaster. With abundant focus on local food, the city has 175 community gardens in the area, most of which are involved in growing food. On the other hand, Indianapolis has but several dozen. Zionsville is fortunate to have two high quality and well-supported farmers’ markets as well as community garden plots available. Unfortunately, many of the 60 available plots offered by the Zionsville Parks Department go untended. Perhaps there is a need for a renewal of lessons in growing and reconnection to the land.

There are other far-reaching outcomes to eating local. Much has been said lately about the need to protect farmland in Indiana from development. Having some of the richest soils in the world covered in asphalt and concrete doesn’t make sense to many Hoosiers. By buying local, consumers are supporting the efforts of small farmers and helping to keep our rural lands rural. The effort also supports the local economy by recirculating dollars within our own region.

The choice to eat local affects not only our own table and gives us a sense of security. It also aids local farms, bolsters a sense of community and protects rural landscapes. It’s difficult to imagine another action individuals can take in their day-to-day lives that will so positively affect the community and the environment.

To find out more about local foods and sustainable eating visit Indy Sustainable Food Alliance and Local Harvest The latter records nearly 20 listings within a 25-mile radius of Zionsville, and over 50 within 50 miles. It’s not as radical a concept as one might think.

Lynn Jenkins is a Zionsville resident starting a new magazine, Indiana Living Green. E-mail her at

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