Canadian Mennonite
Volume 11, No. 03
February 5, 2007


Locally grown food initiative spawned in Manitoba


Jennifer de Groot of Hope Mennonite Church checks out her pantry to see which of its contents meet the 100 Mile Manitoba criteria.

While many are starting 2007 with new resolve to diet or eat more sensibly, a group of Manitobans is pledging to a diet that reduces the distance their food travels. This 100 Mile Manitoba project was spawned last fall at the Wiens Shared Farm near St. Adolphe, Man., when the eight partners hosted an open meeting called “Is there a sweat shop in your fridge?”

Jennifer de Groot of Hope Mennonite Church and a Wiens Shared Farm partner, said she was surprised by the attendance at that meeting and the interest it sparked. “We shared our passions and interest around food issues,” she said. Participants identified many related issues, including the lack of cold storage in the province for winter vegetables and the distance that food travels to reach consumers. They decided to embark on a campaign to get Manitobans to eat with more awareness about how far their food has travelled to reach their dinner tables.

The 100 Mile Manitoba project encourages consumers and marketers to think about how buying and eating habits impact local and international economies and ecologies. The goal is to get 100 people to commit to eating food produced within 100 miles for 100 days beginning this Sept. 1 and ending on Dec. 9. “I think it is long enough to change people’s eating habits and how they think,” said de Groot, adding, “We already have 30 to 40 people signed on.”

The project aims to build community as well as provide education. “We are lobbying specific stores regarding labelling where their grains and beans come from. We are encouraging restaurants to come up with 100-mile meals and bakeries to offer sourdough breads,” said de Groot. A subcommittee is also working on a directory of local food sources.

Dan Wiens of Wiens Shared Farm said, “[Mennonite Church] Manitoba is involved with this project. They are currently working on a package for churches to use for planning 100-mile fellowship meals, highlighting some of the justice and ethical aspects.”

De Groot acknowledged that there will be challenges. “We want people to be transparent about when they are unable to stay within the limits. Salt will be one of the big things to work around.” Salt, sugar and vinegar are all used in canning, but are not produced in Manitoba. Participants will be researching and sharing new and different ways of adapting.

“A few years ago I thought I would never be able to give up orange juice, but I have and it’s totally fine,” said de Groot as the price of citrus products from California were about to spike following a frost that froze up to two-thirds of the crop. “We can get vitamin C from sauerkraut, potatoes and rosehip tea. The diversity of food grown and produced in Manitoba is surprising.”

Those interested in participating in the 100 Mile Manitoba challenge can download a pledge form on the program’s website:

“As a Mennonite I would love to see more Mennonites participate because it is an outgrowth of our mandate for creation care,” concluded Wiens.

—Evelyn Rempel Petkau

MCC Manitoba meat canning


Wilf Unrau, chair of Mennonite Central Committee’s meat canning campaign in Manitoba, displays one of more than 22,000 cans of pork—from 185 sows—that volunteers prepared over a 96-hour period late last year. “I think something like this gives people a sense of satisfaction,” he said. Unrau presided over a dedication service concluding the 2006 canning days, thanking Harry and Elaine Dyck, owners of Winkler Meats, who work hand-in-hand with the project, and the many volunteers from across Manitoba and from outside the province.

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