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Feature Story

Buying locally, thinking globally, and eating better



Forget butter. Don’t worry about salt. Ignore the dollop of sour cream and the sprinkling of bacon bits, cheddar cheese and chives.

Fresh Pemberton new potatoes boiled in a little water don’t need any fancy dressings; they’re just plain delicious on their own. Simply pop one in your mouth and savour the flavour.

These small potatoes are just one part of the smorgasbord of delights coming from the rich Pemberton ground, just 20 minutes up the road from Whistler.

The time is ripe to buy local food.

Doing so moves Whistler one step closer to sustainability, helps local farmers thrive, and, as international studies show, goes a long way towards protecting the environment.

On top of it all, some say it simply tastes better too.

"There’s just no comparison," said Whistler’s Chef Bernard Casavant, referring to the food that’s grown locally and arrives freshly picked at his restaurant.

At Chef Bernard’s in the Upper Village, Casavant never quite knows what will be coming through the back door, fresh from the farm, on any given day. It could be bundles of sage and oregano from Lillooet or boxes of Pemberton produce.

It doesn’t really matter. When you’ve been a chef at the Four Seasons in Vancouver and the executive chef for the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, you can improvise with what gets thrown your way, especially if it’s just been picked.

"It can’t get any fresher," he said.

"Twelve to 14 hours from field to the plate. That’s how it should be."

According to the David Suzuki Foundation, that’s not the norm. In most North American households the average meal travels 2,400 kilometres to get to the plate.

"The longer distance it comes from, the more compromised it is in terms of quality," said Heather Pritchard, an organic grower and director of the non-profit Vancouver-based organization FarmFolk/CityFolk.

"Things are harvested before they’re ripe in order for them to be shipped longer."

When that happens, the produce loses some of its most valuable nutrients.

At the same time, the great distances covered bringing food from the field to the consumer means harmful emissions and greenhouse gases are spewed into the environment.

Compare those 2,400 kms to the food from the Helmer farm along the Pemberton Meadows Road. By the end of the summer everything on their dinner plates will be from their farm, just a few hundred metres from field to plate. And the meat portion of the dinner will be from another nearby farm.

"It’s sort of a living example of what you can do," said Lisa Helmer, the youngest of the three Helmer daughters who all pitch in at the family farm.

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