Its summer and we are well into the heart of growing season in Maryland. This is a great time to enjoy foods grown locally. Buying local food has many advantages. It helps support independent family farms in our community and strengthen our local economy. Farming is a family business that is often passed down from one generation to another. Buying locally helps ensure that our farms survive for many generations. It is estimated that if every household in Maryland purchased just $12 worth of farm products, from farmer’s markets, roadside stands or grocery stores who sell locally grown and raised foods for 8 weeks, over $200 million would go back into the pockets of our local farmers.
Buying locally also helps the environment by reducing the carbon footprint. Less energy is used to transport products from farms, which in turn reduces the amount of harmful greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere; improving the local air and water quality.
Buying locally also provides healthy fresh produce and right-from-the-farm eggs, dairy products, meats and poultry for consumers. Local produce and other farm foods are fresher and fewer nutrients are lost since there is less travel time from the farm or dairy to your table.
Buying locally can also save you money. Buying fresh produce during the growing season is generally less expensive than if you buy it out-of-season. You can also stock up and freeze it or preserve it so you can enjoy it all year long.
What can I do to buy locally and enjoy it now?
You can begin by visiting the Maryland’s Best Agriculture website at https://marylandsbest.maryland.gov/ which links farmers to consumers and provides a wealth of information. Read about and visit the nine creameries on Maryland’s Ice Cream Trail, or check out the 2019 Farmer’s Market Directory and visit a farmer’s market near you to purchase local fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, milk, cheeses, ice cream and even wines. The website also provides a downloadable Maryland Fruit and Vegetable Seasonality chart that will show you what’s in season. You can also find information about where to buy Maryland’s aquaculture products such as oysters, crabs and blue catfish and the website provides great recipes for preparing many of Maryland’s farm and marine foods.
What can I do to buy locally and enjoy it later?
Take advantage of the bounty of Maryland’s fruits and vegetables in season, available at farmer’s markets and stands or even produce grown in your own backyard by preserving it. Preserving foods allows you to enjoy their fresh taste all year long, however it’s important that you follow tested recipes and use the proper procedures and equipment. Recipes are tested for acidity and pH, the density of the food, and the proper temperature and cooking time. Home recipes do not have that level of testing. The University of Maryland Extension is offering monthly food preservation workshops using tested recipes and produce grown in Maryland at the Community Services Senior Center in the Cecil County Administration Building, located at 200 Chesapeake Blvd. in Elkton. Workshops will be offered at that location on the following dates:
- Thursday, Aug. 22, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., tomatoes, water bath
- Thursday, Sept. 26, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., peach salsa
- Thursday, Oct. 17, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.. apple butter
- Thursday, Nov. 7, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., dried fruits and herbs
- $20 for one workshop
- $35 for two workshops
- $50 for three workshops
- $65 for all four workshops
These workshops provide a hands-on learning experience for beginners and advanced canners. Participants will receive home preservation resources and make and take home their own canned product using a tested recipe.
For more information or to register for the food preservation workshops, call Donna Witkowski at the University of Maryland Extension office at: 410-996-5280.