Take the challenge. You’ll feel better for it
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.