Friday, June 13, 2008

Are You Eating a Third-Hand Tomato?

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STOP! Before you take another bite, you might want to consider that your food choices have a much bigger impact than you could ever imagine. Nothing beats the flavor of field- ripened Maryland tomatoes harvested at the height of their ruby blush. These tomatoes are planted and harvested using good agricultural practices which renders them disease free and miles fresher.

Many store tomatoes were picked somewhere west or south of Maryland, sold to a broker, and then sold to the grocery-store chain for distribution. That’s a third-hand tomato. Supermarkets consider produce to be locally grown if it produced within a 12 hour drive of their store, or roughly within a 600 miles radius. The National Association of Farmers Markets has two types of “local” definitions. Local is defined as a radius from the market in which case 30 miles is ideal, but up to 50 miles is acceptable for larger metropolitan areas. Or, the definition of local may be a county boundary or other geographic boundary such as a National park.

Why should you purchase locally grown food? Buying local keeps your food dollars circulating in your community. Local farmers act as trusted producers of health food and are the stewards of ecosystems and watersheds. Their fields discourage urban sprawl, promote sustainable developments, and protect farmland. Buying local food helps make farming more profitable and selling farmland for development less attractive.

Buying locally grown Maryland produce is easy. Here are some simple tips.

Plant your food dollars close to home. When you buy local food, you vote with your food dollar. This ensures that family farms in Maryland will continue to thrive and that healthy, flavorful, and plentiful food will be available for future generations.

1. Shop at a:
2. Join a CSA or Produce Subscription Service

3. Patronize supermarkets that purchase produce from local growers.

4. Patronize restaurants that use ingredients from local producers.

5. Ask your food supplier about the exact sources of their food.


Cyber Glo said...

Great commentary. Another big thing for me is the taste. If produce has to be trucked in, it will have to be picked much earlier and "ripen" en route. The first time I had fresh tomatoes and broccoli from a CSA subscription I was amazed at the difference. I really had no idea that ripe broccoli actually has a purplish tint to it!

The thing that bothers me is that many people have a misperception that local foods cost more. However, I have found that since you are buying straight from the producer, you cut out the middle man and other added costs (i.e. shipping, advertising). Now if only we can get the word out somehow....

Dancer in DC said...

My experience thus far has been that shopping directly from the farmer tends to be cheaper where produce is concerned. With meat it's a bigger variable, although in some cases the good flavor outweighs any additional cost! (Ah, the memories of buying directly from an awesome butcher in Hagerstown.)

Lauren said...

Awesome Scott, and so true! After smelling the VA, MD, and WV strawberries at the farmer's market in Silver Spring yesterday, I feel the same. I truly believe that it does your body better to eat locally grown, fresh food. And you know, it doesn't hurt to have a relationship with the person who grows your food, either. There's really something to be said for all of that.