Food miles: The distance food travels from the field to your table

Published 5:21 pm Thursday, January 16, 2014


Leader file photo

THREE OAKS­—The idea of locally-sourcing foods is gaining increasing traction, especially in areas with rich agricultural histories like southwest Michigan.

While huge agribusiness corporations seem bent upon finding more ways to increase their profits by globalizing food production and distribution, concerned citizens and organizations are leading the way towards tying food production and consumption back into local communities.

One such initiative is the “Lexicon of Sustain-ability,” a multiplatform web-based project that advocates for sustainability in agriculture. The project can be found at available at

Their premise is that a new collection of terms — such as “food miles” and “carbon footprint” — has sprung up around the concept of locally-sourcing foods, and by learning the meanings of those terms, people can learn more about the reasons for sustainable food production as well.

One way that organizers hope to achieve a greater awareness of this project is through a traveling exhibit of 24 photographs.

“It’s art about food — about growing food and agriculture and their relationship,” explained Paula Bartholome, author of the blog “Garden to Table” and co-publisher of “Edible Michiana,” a quarterly magazine.

“I saw the show last summer in Goshen and was impressed by its message and the creative approach to telling it,” Bartholome said. “I think that the 24 photographs tell an important piece of the sustainability story and work together to provide a way to see the depth and breadth of the topic.”

With a goal of sharing that message, Bartholome has organized a pop-up art exhibit in partnership with Journeyman Distillery, located at 109 Generations Dr. in Three Oaks, Mich. There, guests will have the opportunity to view eight pieces of original photographic art created by Douglas Gayeton from 12 to 6 p.m. on Jan. 18 and 19.

“Journeyman is a perfect place to host an event like this,” said Mike Prelaske, general manger of the distillery. “We are a 100% organic distillery. We are a grain-to-bottle facility, and all of our grains come from Michigan, Illinois or Wisconsin. We try to keep it as local as possible with our menu, too.”

In honor of the event, Journeyman has created a unique cocktail, Owl in the Orchard, which will only be available on that weekend.

“It features our W.R. Whiskey, our house-made triple sec and fresh blood orange juice,” said Prelaske. “It’s delicious, and it’s a beautiful drink.”

“There will also be representatives from other organizations that are doing a variety of things related to sustainability there,” Bartholome said.

Among those organizations will be the Southwest Michigan Planning Comm-ission, whose “Keep It Blue” project works towards educating the public on issues of water quality.

In addition, a representative from Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve will be present to discuss their efforts at sustainability.

“Someone from the Village of Three Oaks will be on hand to answer questions about their community garden as well,” Bartholome said. “There will also be information regarding the Niles Entrepreneurial and Culinary Incubator.”

“There will be an opportunity to sign up for CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture. That is a program that enables people to pay a fee and then share in a farmer’s produce,” Bartholome explained. “There will be some folks there from different farms that people can talk to.”

Bartholome has planned two more similar events for the spring and summer of this year. Interested parties can find more information about them on the Facebook page for Art of Sustainability, a group for people concerned with sustainability in southwest Michigan.

“I would like for people to be able to see the posters and build some conversations around local food sustainability and start thinking about that in a new way,” Bartholome said.

“It’s going to be fun. A lot of cool people are going to be there,” Prelaske said. “It’s a good reason to break out of the house and get out in the middle of winter.”