A 100-mile Red Island Diet

Heather Martin embraces the ‘eat local’ challenge and discovers a land of plenty

Intense caffeine withdrawals and tomato sauce made with honey were not exactly what I’d expected when I sunk my locavore teeth into a week-long 100-mile diet attempt. The environmental-friendly initiative, popularized by Alisa Smith and J.B. McKinnon in the book The 100 Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating, encourages exclusively eating foods grown within a 100-mile radius. Inspired by their journey in locavorism, I decided to try it out on PEI for a short stint. With a little bit of creativity and a lot of research, my week of strictly local food consumption opened my eyes to how much variety our small red sandbar has to offer.

Individuals can decide for themselves if they want to approach the diet with precise rules or more relaxed guidelines. Technically, the 100-mile diet ruled out many of my vices, including coffee, chocolate, and anything with refined sugar. Some of my regular grocery staples – rice, peanut butter, quinoa, hummus, balsamic vinegar and avocados – were also way out of range. I decided to cut myself the tiniest amount of slack and allow products containing small traces of ingredients grown over 100 miles away, such as cheese made with local milk that contained additional enzymes and cultures from beyond. With this allowance, how hard could it be?


As it turned out, certain food groups were much easier to find than others. Sourcing local meat, eggs, seafood, and produce was a breeze as expected with trips to farmers’ markets in Summerside and Charlottetown. Giving up refined sugar wasn’t so bad when supplemented with Island honey and maple syrup. I was pleasantly overwhelmed by the abundance of Island options for milk, cheese, and butter thanks to dairy powerhouses Amalgamated Dairies Limited, Purity Dairy, and Cows Creamery along with artisan cheese vendors from Glasgow Glen Farm and the Charlottetown Cheese Company. Even tacos were within my limits, thanks to the fine folks from Pembroke Farms who served tortillas made from homegrown corn and topped with their own lamb, seasonal greens and fresh salsa.

Despite these positive discoveries, my single week of 100-mile dieting had many highs and lows. In one moment I would be laughing to myself with satisfaction over a bowl of popcorn from In Good Taste drenched in Alpha Mills pumpkin seed oil and salt from Pugwash, Nova Scotia. Upon finding nearby Barnyard Organics wheat, the ingredient I had been missing for a homemade pasta recipe, I became convinced that a year-round locavore life was achievable without great sacrifice.


Later that same day, however, I found myself sidelined by coffee cravings and disappointment. The homemade pasta I’d made had been wrecked by a lackluster tomato sauce, which I threw together after failing to find a locally made sauce without imported sugar. I had intended to serve it to friends (i.e. my parents who will eat anything I make, no matter how substandard the dish turns out to be). With that plan ruined, I opted instead for roasted potatoes with garlic and butter as an alternative. The lesson was clear: flexibility and open-mindedness with meal planning are essential components of the 100-mile mindset.

My advice to anyone interested in attempting a 100-mile diet can be summarized in two simple words: dig deep. Visit your markets and talk to the farmers and vendors. Ask questions about where their ingredients come from. Roll up your sleeves and be adventurous in the kitchen with your local finds. You’ll be rewarded with a newfound appreciation for this little island, the incredible fare produced here and the hardworking, admirable farming community that makes it all possible. To top it off, you certainly won’t be left hu ng r y.