Beans, blackberries, blueberries, cherries and cucumbers—we are deep into summer and the produce stands are bursting with juicy goodness. I hope you are visiting your closest farmers market and filling your bag with fresh, healthful yumminess. It’s astonishing how far farmers markets have come over the years. Now you can find everything from cheese to wine to grassfed meats at a market—and know that you are helping a local farmer or producer in a real tangible way.
We are lucky here in Chesapeake Country to have so many to choose from. There’s a market somewhere on nearly every day of the week (I tried to find a Monday market, but no joy—message me if you know of one?). And let’s just abandon the image that farmers markets are for those who only buy all organic foods and pricey kombucha. These markets are for everyone.
According to the Dept. of Agriculture, there are 58 markets that accept SNAP benefits and the number is increasing. The health departments are also working to expand the fruit and vegetable cash benefit for WIC and more farms will be coming online soon. My source also said that there are only a handful of markets in the state that don’t accept Farmers Market Nutrition Program payments.
July is a great time to hit the markets to see how far local foods can go. Can you make an entire meal out of what you buy at a market? I’m willing to bet you can. Enter the Buy Local Challenge, which kicks off at the end of the month. As writer Chelsea Harrison tells us, it’s easier than ever to “go local.” Just eat one item purchased from a Maryland roadside stand or farmers market or farm store every day and share your progress on social media. There’s also a bounty of related events happening that help shine the spotlight on Maryland-grown foods.
The local food movement feels new again—even though it’s a concept as old as time. We ate what we grew or what we traded with our neighbors. Or what we pulled from the Bay waters (see the reader letter below for some insight). Somewhere over the centuries though, we grew accustomed to eating whatever we wanted, no matter where it originated and the economic and environmental costs it took to produce it and transport it. Now we have meal kits and DoorDash to contend with. There are criticisms of the movement, as it’s admittedly idealistic. Some things just can’t be found at your local farmers market. Coffee beans don’t grow in Maryland.
I fondly remember author Barbara Kingsolver’s 2007 book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, about her family’s attempt to eat only locally grown food for an entire year. (If you haven’t read it, I highly encourage you to). One of the hardest parts for the family was going without coffee or olive oil or other “luxuries” that just weren’t available on their Virginia farm. A bit of boasting now. I knew the Kingsolver family, one of their daughters babysat my boys, and we ate often at their fantastic local-food restaurant in Meadowview, Va., called Harvest Table. What this family achieved is nothing short of remarkable and inspiring.
I hope you will give the Buy Local Challenge a try—even if you don’t want to commit to a full week, maybe start with a couple of days. Snap some photos and send them to us via email or on social media. I’d love to hear what you’re eating.
Congratulations to Karen George! She’s the winner of the Brothers Osborne concert ticket giveaway. Karen told us she was “so happy to win!! My grown kids all have tickets and forgot about MOM. I hope my seats are better than theirs.” (We hope so, too, Karen! See you there, July 16 at Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons.) Stay tuned for our next giveaway to The Beach Boys, coming in August.
Kathy Knotts is the editor of CBM Bay Weekly. Reach her at [email protected]