When Buy Local Challenge Week began 7 years ago, it was a challenge to find enough locally sourced food to feed yourself. No more. Aside from a few condiments, consumers can find a well-rounded diet. A locavore in Maryland can find a wide selection of meats and dairy year around. We can find a broad selection of seasonally grown fruits and vegetables, though it is next to impossible find locally sourced strawberries in the winter months!
To extend variety and supply beyond the growing seasons, some chefs, most notably Spike Gjerde of Woodberry Kitchen, have been canning and/or freezing seasonal foods to use year around.
For farmers and those who support them, it is important to “walk-the-walk,” and sometimes “talk-the-walk” for locally sourced food, whenever we can, especially during a time when local vegetable and fruit farms absolutely depend on markets to survive. By walking the walk, I mean visiting local markets, retail establishments and restaurants that publicly advertise that they purchase from Maryland farms.
By talk-the-talk, I am suggesting that we all ask for locally-sourced food at facilities that don’t advertise local-sourced food. If they have it to offer, encourage them to advertise. If not, be persistent in asking. Talk-the-talk can also include inviting your friends to events that locally-source food and encouraging our member organizations to use locally-sourced food when they hold events.
Many people can intellectually accept the advantages of eating locally-sourced food, without practicing it, so I have some other reasons to tell them to help you close the deal:
- A healthy ag economy is the best form of land preservation. Over 92% of all Marylanders support land preservation according a a 2010 survey by the Schaefer Center for Public Policy.
- Locally-sourced food builds the local economy, creating jobs and local investment.
- Farms that can feed Maryland residents increase our food security and our ability to feed those in need.
- Local foods promote food safety. In today’s global markets, contamination outbreaks tend to be hard to pin down and notifications are slow to consumers. It is great when you know where your food comes from and can ask about how the food is produced.
- Local foods taste better! Fruits and tomatoes do not have to be ripened with gas. The varieties can be selected by farmers for taste rather than shelf life.
The Buy Local Challenge begins on July 18th. We only have one month to line up our local sources and encourage our family, friends, and groups to do the same!!