Seven years ago, it started as a way to create markets for Southern Maryland farmers who had transitioned out of tobacco and into food/drink production. Quickly it morphed into a statewide Buy Local Challenge Week.
As it matures, the event is serving as a celebration of accomplishments in the resourcing of locally produced food in Maryland. This year, perhaps the biggest celebration was at the Governor’s residence in Annapolis where Governor Hogan welcomed hundreds of happy grazers of offerings from 15 Maryland chefs, including the First Lady, who served up one of the best recipes of local food.
However, the main purpose of the week is to find new converts to local farm products. I helped to teach a class of realtors about selling and leasing farmland last week. As I often do at such events, I asked how many attendees had consumed some food produced locally in the last week. Perhaps a third raised their hands and only a few had heard of the Buy Local Challenge.
I believe that, as Wendell Berry says, “eating is an agricultural act.” Consuming local foods helps to create local jobs. It helps to determine how food is produced (ask farmers at markets how often they get asked how their food is produced!). Consuming local foods helps to keep farmland out of the hands of developers. It keeps land open and porous and alive for nature’s systems to thrive. Local food production creates surpluses that are usually donated to those in desperate need of fresh healthy food. How cool is it that you can do all these things just by eating fresh healthy food?
Just a few more days in the Challenge to convert new disciples!