Sarah Elton

Sarah Elton: Author of short-listed title "Locavore"

Sarah Elton, author of the short-listed title Locavore, is a journalist and writer who focuses on food and agriculture, science and sustainability. She is the food columnist for CBC Radio’s  Here & Now and writes regularly for publications across North America including The Globe and Mail,  Maclean’s, and

Elton speaks regularly at universities, colleges, libraries and at all sorts of events about food and the building of sustainable food systems.

Elton grew up looking for earthworms in her dad’s compost heap, has volunteered on organic farms, fought the raccoons to grow her own back-deck container vegetables, and is currently an urban hunter-gatherer, foraging for local foods where she lives in Toronto with her husband and two daughters.

What was the inspiration for Locavore?
The book opens with the true story of what started me down this path. My daughter came home from a birthday party with a cookie in her loot bag. It was a ginger bread cookie, shaped like a pig with pink icing and I assumed it was made at one of the bakeries in my neighbourhood. But it was shrink wrapped in cellophane. So I flipped over the package and there in small letters was: Made in China. I knew my clothes were made in China and my shoes, and so many of the products we buy here, but to see a cookie made on the other side of the planet and shipped thousands of kilometers underlined the environmental cost of our industrial, long-distance food chain. I started to report about this, and the local food movement that was starting to grow quickly, and before I knew it, I was a locavore and was writing a book about sustainable food in Canada.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in writing/publishing this title?
I don’t mean to dodge the question, but writing this book was enjoyable and exhilarating. I had the opportunity to meet the most interesting people and was honoured to write about their fascinating stories. It was a pleasure!

What aspect of the book are you most proud?
I always love a good story and wanted to write about the big food issues (and boy, these are big issues!) in a way that felt more like story telling than essay writing. I didn’t want the book to feel too good for you (like, say, kale–though I love kale) but rather, be good for you while tasting sweet (like blueberries!) People tell me that they enjoy reading the stories in the book and that makes me very happy.

What do you wish you knew before starting the project?
Had someone told me how much food in Canada would change during the period I was working on the book, I wouldn’t have believed them. When I started Locavore, I had to explain to people what urban agriculture meant and when I was on my book tour, young people were coming up to me regularly to tell me they wanted to pursue careers in urban agriculture. There’s been a cultural shift and that’s inspiring!

What advice would you give aspiring culinary authors?
I would suggest writing only about what you are very passionate about. A book becomes your life–and the life of your family and even close friends! You must feel comfortable having that topic become your focus for years to come. Locavore has profoundly shaped my family in a very positive way. (Though sometimes I fear being a zealot: My 3 year-old told my friend yesterday that she only eats peaches in season–I cringed–and my 6 six year-old begged me to buy bananas today.)

The winners will be announced at the Canadian Culinary Book Awards on Monday, November 7, 2011, at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.

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