Back in 2005, Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon started their 100 Mile Diet, on March 21. They almost starved; as they wrote in the Tyee at the time:
Then there was a lack of variety. From March 21 until the farmers' markets started in mid-May, the only locally grown vegetables available were humble fare like kale, cabbage, turnip, rutabaga, parsnip and leeks. By late April, even these ran out.
They survived of course, and went on to write the book that was one of the inspirations for the local food movements around North America. But they also learned really fast that (most years), when it comes to local, fresh food in the northern states and Canada, April is the cruelest month.
That's why Toronto's Brewers Plate event is so impressive. The organizers pull together some of the best chefs in Toronto to produce an incredible meal from local food. Anyone can do this in September, but April in Toronto is very hard, but that is part of the point, to prove that it can be done; from their story:
Food is the harbinger of where we all need to go now. The future lies increasingly in regional self-reliance all over the world, with local living economies trading fairly, useful, durable goods, food, and good low-carbon ideas. A shift toward regional self reliance, with food leading the way for the whole economy, is our best chance to stem the rising tides of changing weather and rivers, diminishing fossil fuels, scarcities of fresh water, fish, soil - what many are now calling 'peak everything'.
They are proving that one can be self reliant, that one can cook a great meal without having to truck and fly everything in. If they can do it in April they can do it anytime. They also make the point that at anytime, there is a real direct economic benefit to shopping local:
A great, and poorly understood, benefit of giving trade to locally-owned suppliers is that the owners and their employees spend more money and pay more tax in the local regional economy, generating the economic multiplier effect that can be as high as 3 times more than the benefit of money left in local economies by non-local corporations such as chain stores. We may enjoy the imported goods, and there is room for all kinds of imports in the local economy from coffee to computers, but we also need to be aware of how a “buy local first” policy fuels the engine of local economic resilience as we confront this deep economic crisis and end of cheap energy.
Every business at the Brewers Plate is local and independently owned, and since they are serving local food, every dollar spent stays in the local economy.
I interviewed founder Chris Lowry last year, where he explains that the whole point is to show what can be done in April.
When all food was local, people in Ontario ate a lot of meat; it was fresh all year. It is still hard to be a vegetarian locavore. The food at the Brewers Plate reflected this, and some people must have complained, because they now have a special note on the website, "more vegetarian options this year!" It will be interesting to see what they come up with. On April 18 in Toronto, more information and tickets here. This years' proceeds to Green Thumbs Growing Kids