Buy food that's grown right here

May 23, 2006|by JEFF SEMLER

While I am certainly not the most well-read individual, I do read a fair amount of periodicals.

Recently I read an op/ed piece from the San Francisco Chronicle where the author suggested, "Bring on the $6 gallon of gas, it would revolutionize America. It would make us all better humans. But could you handle it?"

While I find most of his logic nonexistent, he does make one very good point and that is, Americans have an overwhelming feeling of entitlement.

The average American believes they are entitled to whatever they want and it should be cheap.

That is why the average food item on shelves of grocery stores has traveled 3,000 miles. Now, of course, many items have traveled less than that, but then there is the shrimp from China - not a short trip.


At one time, the federal government was concerned about a safe local food supply. One way to ensure that was what is known as Federal Market Orders. In the case of milk, they were set up to ensure a local supply.

Today, most, if not all, of Washington County's milk goes to suburban Washington, D.C. It is hard for newcomers to understand they cannot buy a jug of locally produced milk here.

We go to the store and buy strawberries from California or Argentina, not because they are in season but because we want them.

At some point, this honeymoon is going to come to an end. Fuel will get too costly to ship things "willy nilly." Those imported strawberries will not fit the budget of the average shopper.

Well, do I have a solution for you!

How about buying local?

You are entering a time of great opportunity. The fields of this country have started releasing their bounty and you can buy it fresh and close to home. As a matter of fact, if you set your trip odometer in your car, you can measure the miles your food has traveled.

One place you can buy locally is the Washington County Farmers' Market. The market is at Prime Outlets and, starting last week, runs every Wednesday, through Oct. 25, from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Starting June 10, the market expands to Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The vendors are all local and sell only what they produce.

In addition, the Hagerstown City Farmers Market in the Market House off the big parking lot at 25 W. Church St., is open every Saturday from 5 a.m. to 12 noon. Vendors sell local poultry, meats, eggs and produce.

Another option is the local farm stand. Many local growers have a stand in front of their farm.

This is another great place to buy fresh local products; one caution - not all roadside stands are created equal.

Some folks buy and resell and do not grow their own. Sometimes, they work out of the back of a truck parked alongside the road or have a stand but no surrounding farm. Sometimes, these also could be local farmers.

Even growers will agree the best consumer is an educated one, so ask questions.

Most growers are eager to answer their buyers' questions. It not only helps the buyer but also helps the grower. In some cases, growers have added products based on suggestions from their patrons.

Many growers can also give you tips on storage and use. If you wish to preserve for out-of season use by drying, freezing or canning, you can contact the Extension office and we can provide you with fact sheets on the most up-to-date methods.

There are a lot of other benefits - other than fresh fruit - to supporting local markets.

Keeping your money closer to home helps keep families farming. The profits stay home and aren't sent to Arkansas or Oregon.

Another benefit is an environmental one. Many homeowners don't think about nutrient management, but they are in the middle of it.

Most folks know farmers have to deal with it.

One of the problems faced by the poultry industry, for example, is they import grain from, say Nebraska, but the manure stays here. This causes a nutrient imbalance.

The average kitchen is also involved in that nutrient imbalance. The broccoli from Mexico or the apples from Washington are imported nutrients that we introduce into our nutrient cycle through our septics and sewers.

Eating locally produced foods keeps the nutrient cycle more in balance.

So with spring upon us, buy locally produced fresh farm products.

You will not only be enjoying delicious food, but you will be helping farm profitability and the environment.

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