Take the chal­lenge. You’ll feel bet­ter for it

Cecil Whig - - OPINION -

Whether it’s black­ber­ries that were picked fresh, suc­cu­lent ears of sweet corn or juicy, home­grown toma­toes from a farm stand along a county road, noth­ing tastes quite like lo­cal food.

The Buy Lo­cal Chal­lenge re­cently kicked off, run­ning through the end of the month. The an­nual statewide chal­lenge was cre­ated in 2006 by the South­ern Mary­land Agri­cul­tural De­vel­op­ment Com­mis­sion, and asks res­i­dents to pledge to eat at least one item from a lo­cal farm ev­ery day for a week. The pledged com­mit­ment not only sup­ports Mary­land agri­cul­ture, but also fos­ters healthy eat­ing habits by en­cour­ag­ing par­tic­i­pants to in­cor­po­rate into their meals lo­cally grown farm prod­ucts that are far less pro­cessed than many foods pur­chased in a typ­i­cal chain gro­cery.

The eco­nomic im­pe­tus be­hind all this is to sup­port those who pro­duce food and drink in Ce­cil County and keep that money cir­cu­lat­ing in this com­mu­nity. En­cour­ag­ing these en­deav­ors pre­serves farm­land from de­vel­op­ment and pro­vides jobs, which in turn pro­vide taxes to fund the ser­vices of lo­cal govern­ment.

Then there are the health ben­e­fits. Eat­ing more lo­cally grown fruits, veg­eta­bles and seafood means eat­ing less heav­ily pro­cessed foods that chal­lenge blood pres­sure and in­clude in­gre­di­ents most of us can’t even pro­nounce.

What’s the en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fit? When you walk up to a pro­duce stand, the fruits and veg­eta­bles of­ten re­quired lit­tle or no travel to get to the shelves. Of­ten, they were just car­ried up to the stand, straight from the fields. And when they are car­ried to a restau­rant pre­par­ing food from lo­cal in­gre­di­ents, they are trucked only a few miles.

These are all the rea­sons why buy­ing lo­cal pro­duce is good for you, good for farm­ers, good for the com­mu­nity and in a small way, good for the planet.

But it’s not nec­es­sary to think about all this log­i­cally. The Buy Lo­cal Chal­lenge is re­ally just a re­minder of what many peo­ple al­ready know. We’re go­ing to eat any­way, so why not keep our eyes open for some­thing that tastes good? Slic­ing open a red, ripe tomato that was just pulled off the vine is one of the plea­sures of sum­mer­time in Ce­cil County. Same goes with a wa­ter­melon or can­taloupe, and noth­ing beats a fresh ear of corn.

Ce­cil County boasts four farm­ers mar­kets, where lo­cal res­i­dents can find fresh pro­duce on a weekly ba­sis:

• Ch­e­sa­peake City Farm­ers Mar­ket on the grounds of Trin­ity Methodist Church on Third Street be­tween Bo­hemia Av­enue and Ge­orge Street, runs Fri­days noon to 3 p.m. and Satur­days 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

• Ce­cil County Farm­ers Mar­ket, 308 S. Main St. in North East, 2 to 6 p.m. ev­ery Fri­day.

• Elk­ton Farm­ers Mar­ket, at cor­ner of Bow and Howard streets in Elk­ton, is open 2 to 6 p.m. Thurs­day and Fri­day, and 8 am. to 12 p.m. Satur­day.

• Per­ryville Farm­ers Mar­ket, Lower Ferry Park at the cor­ner of Round­house Drive and Broad Street, is open 3 to 7 p.m. ev­ery Fri­day.

For more in­for­ma­tion on the Buy Lo­cal Chal­lenge, go to www.buy-lo­cal-chal­lenge.com, where it of­fers tips and recipes, in­for­ma­tion on how busi­nesses and other or­ga­ni­za­tions can par­tic­i­pate in the chal­lenge and other de­tails. Par­tic­i­pat­ing in­di­vid­u­als are also en­cour­aged to join the chal­lenge’s Face­book group and to post or blog about their farm-fresh meals.

Make the ef­fort to sup­port our county farms, farm stands, farm­ers mar­kets and winer­ies, as well as gro­cers and restau­rants that of­fer lo­cally grown prod­ucts to con­sumers. Take com­fort in know­ing where the in­gre­di­ents in your meal came from. Take the pledge this year and sup­port our lo­cal farms — and your good health.

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