Plenty: A Review

By Alisa Smith and JB MacKinnon

I recently finished reading Plenty, a book detailing one couple’s year-long challenge to eat nothing but foods grown (or raised) within 100 miles of their home in Vancouver. Dubbed the 100-mile Diet, their adventure sparked a movement that has people all over the world reconsidering what it means to really eat local food.

One of the most interesting things about the story is comparing my life and eating habits to the way they eat on the 100-mile diet. What would I have to give up? On the other hand, how many countless new foods would I be introduced to for the first time?

They talk about hundreds of types of apples, tomatoes and other heirloom fruits and vegetables. I can’t help but note the fact that I can count the different fruits and vegetables I eat on fingers and toes. What happened to the biodiversity of our food? Factory farming happened, that’s what. Farmers churn out what the people buy (or what the government will subsidize) and this has left us with some pretty slim pickings. Look around the grocery store. Doesn’t it feel a little off?

Another eye-opener for me was watching an 18-year veteran vegetarian slowly work meat back into his diet. The pair start out as vegetarians and end up eating their fair share of seafood and eventually beef. I don’t think I’d do that no matter how comfortable I was with the farming practices. They do, however, mention farmers who name all of their cattle, a rare sign of respect you won’t see on factory farms, or about other farmers who would slaughter their animals in their sleep in an attempt to lessen the animal’s trauma, or still others who said prayers for each slaughtered animal. Interesting.

Stew and I have already talked about taking on the 100-mile challenge, but we’re cheating and waiting for springtime, which, in the south, is pretty much a cake walk. Baby steps, y’all. Baby steps.

I’ve thought about what I wouldn’t have within 100 miles: olive oil, tofu, tempeh, grains of any kind (goodbye quinoa, rice [dear God, rice??],oats, etc.), sugar and so on. But if I learned anything from Alisa and James, it’s that a little persistence and a lot of patience will lead you to just about any crop you want. They even found wheat at the end of their year. Eight months without bread, pancakes, rolls and the like will lead you to bust out your extreme crop-finding skills, apparently.

So yes, we’re up for the challenge… once the sun is out and plants are growing again. Like I said, baby steps. Luckily, North Carolina is filled with vineyards.

10 thoughts on “Plenty: A Review

  1. Ha, I came on here to post about A,V,M but it seems others have beat me to it ;) I really want to check out Plenty now. I know being that hardcore about local eating isn’t for me, but I think it’s important to know where our food comes from and I know I probably never would’ve started shopping at my local farmer’s marker if it wasn’t for A,V,M. Like you said, baby steps!

  2. I third the recommendation for “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”!

    Also, not knowing exactly where you live in SC, I can’t say for sure… but you *might* be less than 100 miles from Smiling Hara Tempeh ( in Asheville.
    Of course, maybe that wouldn’t count because although the tempeh is created there, I don’t know where the beans came from…
    There are so many layers to think about when eating local. I try to do it as much as possible, and also always have a kick-ass veggie garden come spring, but I still think it would be very difficult. Kudos to you for considering it! :)


  3. Well if you and Stew would even attempt this, I’d be impressed. Very interesting, I’ll have to check this and AVM out. Lynchburg and Charlottesville are totally surrounded by farms in this part of VA, so it might be possible for us… but still a serious challenge. I really do find that sad.

  4. I am currently reading “Locavore’s Handbook” by Leda Meredith, who did a similar experiment by eating only things produced within a 250-mile radius from her house in Brooklyn. It is really interesting and there are plenty of hands-on tips about how to follow something similar within a budget and an urban lifestyle.

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