Take a challenge that’s good for you
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.