Take a chal­lenge that’s good for you

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

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 that didn’t have to travel far to reach your taste buds.

To­mor­row, Satur­day, marks the start of Mary­land’s an­nual week-long Buy Lo­cal Chal­lenge, and we en­cour­age ev­ery­one to par­tic­i­pate. In this day of in­dus­tri­al­ized food mar­kets, find­ing lo­cally pro­duced food may seem much more daunt­ing than it re­ally is. But here in South­ern Mary­land, a short drive will un­doubt­edly lead to a nearby farm, farm­ers mar­ket or road­side stand.

What’s more, this sum­mer marks the 10th an­niver­sary of the chal­lenge, which was launched in 2007 by the South­ern Mary­land Agri­cul­tural De­vel­op­ment Com­mis­sion as a re­gional ini­tia­tive. This month, it aims to to high­light the health and eco­nomic ben­e­fits that farms pro­vide and en­cour­age con­sumers to pledge to eat at least one lo­cal farm food item each and every day from July 22 to 30 — and hope­fully well be­yond.

Over suc­ces­sive years, the Buy Lo­cal Chal­lenge has gen­er­ated in­tense in­ter­est from the com­mu­nity. Fu­eled by pub­lic ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the im­por­tance of buy­ing lo­cal, it has grown in pop­u­lar­ity and be­came adopted as a statewide pro­mo­tion in part­ner­ship with the Mary­land De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture.

To cap it all off, the SMADC is host­ing a spe­cial evening of farms, food and fun on Mon­day, July 31, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., at Robin Hill Farm and Vine­yards in Brandy­wine. The BLC cel­e­bra­tion will fea­ture tast­ings of Mary­land farm foods, wines, beer and other lo­cally pro­duced bev­er­ages, as well as the op­por­tu­nity to buy from farm ven­dors, lo­cal ar­ti­sans and crafters. Other highlights in­clude a South­ern Mary­land-style buf­fet din­ner, live en­ter­tain­ment and lawn games.

To fur­ther en­gage the pub­lic in the cel­e­bra­tion, the SMADC is invit­ing ev­ery­one to share their BLC shop­ping spree ex­pe­ri­ences for a chance to win prizes, by post­ing their buy lo­cal pho­tos to Face­book or In­sta­gram us­ing the hash­tag #buy­lo­calchal­lenge.

“In ad­di­tion to pro­vid­ing food that’s fresh and nutri­tional, buy­ing from lo­cal farms pro­motes cleaner air and wa­ter and re­duces our car­bon foot­print on the planet,” the Buy Lo­cal Chal­lenge web­site states. “In Mary­land, if every house­hold pur­chased just $12 worth of farm prod­ucts for eight weeks, over $200 mil­lion would be put back into the pock­ets of our farm­ers.”

This is the per­fect time of year for the Buy Lo­cal Chal­lenge. Be­sides the wide va­ri­ety of fruits and veg­eta­bles cur­rently in sea­son, we’re also soon com­ing into the time of year for county fairs pro­mot­ing lo­cal farm­ers.

We of­ten hear that farm­ing is a dis­ap­pear­ing way of life, that fu­ture gen­er­a­tions do not want to con­tinue in the fields as their par­ents and an­ces­tors did. But stop by one of these road­side stands and see farm­ing fam­i­lies dis­play their wares. The busi­ness of feed­ing your­self by feed­ing oth­ers is still in good shape.

Need more re­sources? No prob­lem. Visit the Mary­land De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture’s com­pre­hen­sive web­site — mda.mary­land.gov — pro­mot­ing lo­cal farms. Not sure what to do with Swiss chard or kohlrabi? Down­load the lat­est ver­sion of the an­nual Buy Lo­cal cook­book. Back is­sues also are avail­able.

An­other MDA-spon­sored site — mary­lands­best.net — is a great com­pen­dium of farm list­ings. A search that can be re­fined by lo­ca­tion yields list­ings for agri­cul­ture oper­a­tions, with con­tact in­for­ma­tion, lo­ca­tions and avail­able prod­ucts. It also in­cludes a sec­tion for recipes.

So visit a farm stand or the farm­ers mar­ket, and make a con­nec­tion with the lo­cal agri­cul­tural com­mu­nity. Our farm­ers have a wide va­ri­ety of nu­tri­tious and de­li­cious prod­ucts.

Take the Buy Lo­cal Chal­lenge and see what it is all about. Hope­fully, you will de­cide to keep it up for the rest of the year.

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