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Going local, staying local

Buying locally means food is better for you, better for the grower

Buying locally means food is better for you, better for the grower

February 13, 2008|By JULIE E. GREENE

Kathy Powderly says she can taste and sometimes see the difference between locally grown food and store-bought food which the label indicates came from outside Maryland.

For instance, local farm eggs have a bright orange yolk and more flavor. "(It's) not necessarily a different flavor, but it's definitely a more heightened flavor," said Powderly, who lives in the Hagerstown area. "You can taste the egg better."

Powderly gets her eggs and most of the meat she eats from Kathy Ecker with Legacy Manor Farm south of Fairplay.

"I know her animals are treated well," Powderly said. She also believes the flavor, texture and health of meat from cattle and chickens that have room to roam outdoors is better than that from large commercial operations where a building is packed full of animals, Powderly said.

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Many local residents choose to eat locally grown food, whether it be stopping at a roadside stand during harvest season or going the extra mile - sometimes literally miles - to pick up a portion of their groceries from local food producers.

Demand for local produce through Evensong Farm's community-supported agriculture program (CSA) has grown so much that Evensong's Julie Stinar said the number of shares will be 75 this year, double the 37 shares of 2007.

With CSAs, members pay a fee and receive a bag or box of fresh produce every week from spring to fall, depending on the CSA. Members don't always know which vegetables, fruits or berries they're getting because each week's delivery depends on what is ready to harvest.

Interest in locally grown food also has spurred an upcoming TV show, "Cooking Fresh, Cooking Local," featuring chef Karl Brown. In each episode, Brown demonstrates how to make recipes using food that can be purchased from local farms. The show, produced by Meredith Poffenberger, will air on WJAL-TV at 3:30 p.m. Sundays starting May 4.

The idea germinated from the beef that Poffenberger's husband, Brian, raises on their Sharpsburg-area farm, Stonecrest Farms. The couple has been selling the beef by the whole, side or quarter so that, often, customers get cuts they aren't familiar with cooking, she said. The show will address that as well as work with other local farms' products.

Health of the animals and people

Willa Jessee of Shippensburg, Pa., has belonged to several CSAs, including a winter season that recently ended but provided her with greenhouse-grown produce such as spinach, lettuce, radishes and turnips.

Jessee, 52, said she first became an organic food eater in the 1970s. More recently, she became interested in locally grown meat to ensure the meat's safety and to make sure the animals were living a "pleasant" or "authentic life" in which they can roam and eat natural foods.

Some Tri-State-area residents who said they preferred locally grown meat were concerned about meat grown at larger operations. They mentioned mad cow disease, recalls of meat due to E. coli contamination, and a desire to avoid the hormones and antibiotics given to some animals and the potential affects - whether proven or not - those chemicals could have on people eating that meat.

Some of the local farms that sell meat and produce directly to consumers promote their food as organic, natural, free-range or pasture-raised.

Legacy Manor Farm south of Fairplay sells beef that has been raised without hormones, said co-owner Kathy Ecker. She said she only gives her animals antibiotics if they need them - say for an infection or wound, which hasn't happened in years, Ecker said. The farm sells produce grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers.

Going local

In addition to concerns about chemicals on food, Boonsboro-area resident Roberta Strohl said she buys as much of her food as she can from local farmers and farmers markets because it's fresher, and she's helping local farmers.

And once it gets to her home, local food is fresher longer, Strohl said, because it hasn't traveled hundreds of miles from suppliers.

The freshness and variety is why Dr. Bob Brooks, an orthopedic surgeon from Sharpsburg, buys locally grown food, he said.

When you belong to a local co-op, you get produce you wouldn't normally find in grocery stores, Brooks said. That can include heritage or antique strains of tomatoes which aren't sold in stores, because those strains might be too tender to ship well.

The impact on the environment from shipping food from California and other places is another reason Powderly prefers local fare.

Some fans of local food still end up buying food from grocery stores, particularly during the off season when local produce often isn't available.

Giant Food Stores spokeswoman Tracy Pawelski said the company's Martin's Food Markets sell food from their local state, including some produce. So some of Martin's produce is local, when it's in season, Pawelski said. But some produce, such as bananas and others tropical fruits, can't be grown locally.

"Occasionally, I indulge in a mango," Powderly said.




Stonecrest Farms' Braised Pot Roast



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