Saltspring Seeds is one of my favourite local sources for vegetable seeds, so when I heard about their Zero Mile Diet seed kit, I was immediately intrigued. What would go into a Zero Mile Diet seed kit? What would I want to grow if I were aiming to provide the bulk of my produce? I imagined my can’t-live-without-them veggies: tomatoes, zucchini, broccoli, cucumbers, green beans, lettuce, kale, potatoes.
Instead, when I checked it out, I found that the twelve seed packets that make up the kit don’t include a whole lot of veg. Grains such as quinoa, amaranth, wheat, barley and flax – as well as dry beans like pinto and kidney – represent most of the seeds. As the introduction in the growing guide included with the kit explains, “by combining [the foods in the kit] with locally grown vegetables, fruits and nuts, you could become close to 100 per cent self-sufficient in food.” Ah. I’ve been growing about this all wrong.
In my small space, I can’t realistically become completely food self-sufficient (baker and organic food campaigner Andrew Whitley estimates, for example, that I’d need to devote 297 square metres [3196 square feet] to wheat production in order to provide my family with bread for a year). So I focus on things that I love to eat, are fairly easy to grow, and provide a good yield in little space.
But as the Zero Mile Diet kit (and the experiment-turned-lifestyle that likely inspired that name) make clear, finding local organic produce when it’s in season isn’t really the problem. It’s the grains and beans and storage crops – the things that get you through the winter months – that I should be growing if I really want to eat local, year round.
In an urban environment, you could sow these seeds with family, friends and neighbours as you convert lawns into gardens. One family might have a shady spot for growing greens or peas while someone else could have a hot spot for growing beans and soybeans. City blocks could garden together whereby many households could create a shared food harvest and thereby lessen reliance on food coming from elsewhere.