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'Tis the Season to Buy Local

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The holidays are a time when we make a special effort to spread joy and generosity with family, friends and our communities. So this holiday season when you're stuck trying to find that special gift that's beyond ordinary and extra thoughtful, think local.

Buying locally is a good thing: you will reduce the carbon footprint of your gift, support the local economy, support farmers and producers and, last but not least, it will help quell your cynicism about the holidays being over-commercialized.

Now, let's get you inspired with a few local gift ideas:

For your foodie friend: edible magazine or a gift certificate to a locavore restaurant

edible magazine is published four times a year, and is tailored to a number of local communities in North America. It features culinary news that's tied to your region, including features about local farms and artisan producers. It's also chock-full of seasonal and regionally-specific recipes. So give someone a subscription or slip a copy in their stocking.

So maybe your foodie friend is more of an expert eater than an aspiring chef. A number of trendy local food restaurants are popping up all over the country. Many are independently run and focus on cuisine made from local ingredients, along with carefully paired local wine menus. A gift certificate would make for a great night out!

The green teen: A book about the locavore movement

Where do budding locavores get started? How about a book from Michael Pollan who writes about why we need to get back to the basics, like local eating, if we want to save the planet. And speaking of homegrown, two Canadians, J.B. MacKinnon and Alisa Smith, practically spurred the local eating trend when they wrote The 100-Mile Diet, in which the B.C. couple chronicles their year of eating nothing but local food.

For your parents: A CSA membership for six months

A box of fresh, local produce opens up so many possibilities for your loved ones! Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) involves giving a local farmer a set fee and in return, receiving shares in the farm's bounty -- namely fresh, high quality vegetables (often organic) eggs, poultry, meat, herbs and honey. A six-month membership will likely cost you about $250.

To find a local CSA, try www.greenbeltfresh.ca or www.100mile.foodtv.ca/find

For your coworkers: A jar of homemade jam

There's nothing quite as lovely as a jar of jam made from fruit grown close to home. Perhaps you didn't join in the canning craze that happened this summer. It's not too late. Apples are still in season in many parts of the country and nothing says "seasons greetings" like homemade spiced apple butter. Food in Jars is about the best canning blog around. Here you'll find an easy 1-2-3 to making your own fruit butter.

For your crush or that special someone: An outdoor date

Let's just face it. As fun as the holidays can be, they can also be stressful if you consider the shopping frenzy, the traffic and the hustle and bustle of it all. Give that special someone an I.O.U. for an outdoor escape. Nothing revives and relaxes like a little nature. But what to do? How about hiking in Rouge Park or snowshoeing on Cypress Mountain? Don't forget to pack a thermos full of hot apple cider and homemade cookies to make it all complete.

Your boss: A donation to charity or a bottle of local wine

Lucky you, your boss gave you a holiday bonus! Why not turn that around and give a little love back to the land? There are a number of good charities working to protect green space and farmland, all across the country.

And last, but certainly not least, why not give a bottle of local wine this holiday season? Canada makes some of the best Riesling in the world. Make it something from a boutique winery if you really want to score extra points!

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