It may come as little surprise to folks in Southern Maryland that most of our food is not grown locally. But does the number 99.76% surprise you?

In the five county region that makes up the Southern Maryland Agriculture Development Commission (Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s), there are about 623,000 households (2010 U.S. Census) spending approximately $3.7 billion on food. According to the USDA 2007 Agricultural Census, farmers in the five county region sold only about $8.8 million in food (vegetables, potatoes, fruits, eggs, etc.) That amounts to just 0.24% of the region’s total food budget coming from local sources.

If we were to increase the local farmer share to just 5% of the total regional food budget, that would result in an extra $176.2 million into the local economy. But the reasons to want more locally sourced food should go much deeper than just dollars and cents.  We should want to improve food security, reduce energy (food transport) costs, create stronger communities, and, frankly, have better, fresher food. We will cover all of these topics over time. But for now, holding onto our dollars is a good reason to start pursuing more locally sourced foods!

Next Week: What is the Growth Potential for Locally Sourced Food?