- For the next seven days starting Saturday, July 19 and running through July 27, agree to eat at least one food every day that was grown on a local farm.
That’s it. You don’t need to sign up anywhere, though if you want to officially register, you can visit the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission website, which is sponsoring the challenge, here.
It’s free to participate and anything produced locally counts: fruits, vegetables, honey, milk, eggs, dairy, beef, chicken, pork, wine and baked goods. If it was grown on a local farm or produced by local artisans, it counts.
Why bother? Here are 5 good reasons:
1) Local food is yummier (and yes, that’s a word!) than food that has to travel long distances to get to your shopping cart. If you don’t believe it, bite into a locally grown farm fresh tomato that’s wonderfully ripe and juicy. Then compare it to one of those somewhat hard, somewhat tough, somewhat dry mostly taste-less imported tomatoes you can find in any grocery store. No contest, right?
2) Local farmers and local economies need your support. Locally harvested fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products are produced by farmers who live and work in or near our communities. They play an important role in maintaining open space while strengthening the economic vitality of the towns and cities where they work and do business. Fun Fact: In the state of Maryland alone, if every household purchased just $12 worth of locally grown farm products for eight weeks (basically the summer season), over $200 million would be put back into the local farm economy.
3) It‘s a great way to protect your family‘s health and safety. Locally grown food is often produced and packaged without toxic chemicals that are applied to food that is grown in larger scale operations and then survive long-distance transportation. As this report made clear, organic food is richer in cancer-fighting antioxidants and less likely to be tainted with pesticides, herbicides and heavy metals than produce grown conventionally.
4) It also protects your drinking water and air. Local farms, especially those that are organic, help recharge our groundwater supplies and filter pollutants out of the air.
5) It‘s good for the birds and the bees. Not THOSE birds and bees. The ones that fly around chirping and singing, pollinating flowers and other plants, and generally keeping Mother Nature happy.
Where can you shop? Stock up at your local farmers markets this weekend. Remember that almost any recipe you’d normally prepare can be made with locally-grown ingredients. Take a few minutes now to plan your meals for the week then shop locally with an ingredients list in mind.
At your grocery store, look for signs indicating that the produce was locally grown (usually that means, within 100 miles of your community). If you don’t see what you’re looking for, ask the manager of the produce department. Even if the store doesn’t carry much that’s produced locally, your questions will show the store that consumer demand for local fruits, vegetables and other foods is strong.
Don’t feel like cooking? No worries. It still counts if you eat out at a restaurant or work cafeteria that is serving food made with local ingredients.
Let us know if you take the challenge and what you end up buying. I already plan to buy ripe peaches (for a pie), fresh tomatoes and cucumbers (for a salad), zucchini and squash (to add to some spaghetti sauce), a couple of big bunches of basil (to make pesto), some delicious goat cheese (to spread on crackers and drizzle with olive oil for an appetizer), and at least a dozen free-range eggs (for a couple of omelettes). What about you?