Take an inventory of where your food comes from

June 15, 2010|By JEFF SEMLER

"No Farms, No Food" is a bumper sticker that I see a lot around the area. It's not a new item in general, but it has recently made its way onto the vehicles traveling our highways and byways.

While this seems logical, where did this come from? The short answer is the American Farmland Trust is responsible for printing and promoting this bumper sticker.

This is directly from the American Farmland Trust website:

"The message is simple and couldn't be clearer - America's farms and ranches provide an unparalleled abundance of fresh, healthy and local food, but they are rapidly disappearing.

"Ninety-one percent of America's fruit and seventy-eight percent of our vegetables are grown near metro regions, where they are in the path of development. And every hour we lose 125 acres of farm and ranch land. That is why supporting local food and farms is more important than ever!"


While I fully support this bumper sticker, it takes more than sporting a trite saying on your car to accomplish such a laudable goal. Again, I am assuming everyone with the sticker supports farmland preservation.

I now ask you are you putting your ideals in action or is it just hollow talk? To help you answer that question, let me flesh it out a little for you. Unless you have been asleep for the last 50 years, you have undoubtedly heard the term watershed, and in particular, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

What I would like you to now think about is a food shed. No this is not a building, but the area from where your food originates. So start somewhere in your kitchen, be it the cupboard or refrigerator and identify where your food got its start. Some things will be difficult to identify while others will be easy.

If you have a bag of baby carrots, chances are pretty good they came from Bakersfield, Calif., and your Valencia oranges from Florida. So you can see, your food shed is rather large, and some times of the year it might be even larger, say in January, when you are eating grapes grown in Chile.

You might be like my parents who ate trout my father caught and greens and asparagus they grew in their garden.

Eating off the land, as my mother calls it. Their food shed was local.

I say this to help you start thinking - do you want to save farms in the Cumberland Valley or the San Joaquin Valley in California or one in Mexico?

I am not naive enough to believe anyone is going to limit their total diet to the Cumberland Valley food shed. In some cases, it is very difficult. But what I suggest is start looking at the food you buy and where it is grown.

Ask yourself: Can I buy this product locally? Can I buy this locally and store it for the winter?

For example, freeze some local strawberries now so in January when you want to eat strawberries you won't have to buy them from some faraway place. In the not-too- distant-future, you can put away corn, peaches, apples and more. You can buy meat locally, too. Yes, you might have to buy a freezer. If you don't have room, then just take this challenge: this summer, try eating as locally as possible.

How, you might say? Shop like a European, buying your menu items daily or every few days. Where you say - farmers' markets, roadside farm stands, and yes, local supermarkets. They will often identify locally grown items.

If you take this challenge, I look forward to hearing how you make out. Remember, the best form of farmland preservation is making farming profitable.

Jeff Semler is an Extension educator, specializing in agriculture and natural resources, for the University of Maryland Extension. He is based in Washington County. He can be reached weekdays by telephone at 301-791-1404, ext. 25, or by e-mail at">

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