At a recent Sustainable Calvert Network meeting, I mentioned how the local food movement is impacting Calvert County agriculture and how easy it is to eat local, even in the winter. After the meeting, several people asked how Tamea and I eat local. It is easy!
As recently as 10 years ago, those wishing to eat local, especially in the winter, would have to grow the food themselves or go hungry. Thankfully, that has changed. Local livestock producers are now selling direct-to-consumer. Local dairies are providing milk, yogurt, and cheese. More vegetable farmers are using high tunnels and greenhouses to produce through the winter. More farmers are supplying root crops (carrots, sweet potatoes, turnips, etc.) through the winter season.
And don’t forget seafood from local waters! In the summer, watermen are regularly supplying customers and restaurants with crabs and fish. In the winter, Chesapeake oyster harvests are increasing – 430,000 bushel last year.
The potential economic benefit of eating local is significant. The average U.S. family spends about 10% of its income on food according to USDA figures. Based on the average household income and the number of households in the Southern Maryland region, the region’s food budget would be roughly $3.7 billion; Calvert County’s food budget alone would be over $240 million. In the region, direct sales of food for human consumption grew 57%, from $2.8 million in 2007 to $4.4 million in 2012. However, that is only 0.1% of the total regional food budget. When we buy from chains, those dollars leave the region immediately and we lose any connection with how our food is grown.
Tamea and I now supply a significant portion of our food locally. All of my eggs, milk, and yogurt are locally sourced. In the summer, I have a large garden and I freeze surplus blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, and pesto for the winter (that also reduces dollars leaving the region). In the spring and fall, I have greens from the garden, and in the winter, I have my own cold frame for lettuce and carrots, plus sweet potatoes stored from the garden.
Many of the goods that I don’t grow we get from Chesapeake’s Bounty, an option for those who do not have a garden. Will Kreamer aggregates local foods from farmers throughout the region. And when we dine out, we usually eat at restaurants that locally source some or most of their food.
Most of the bread I consume is made from grains produced locally, mainly from Next Step Produce in Charles County, as are the rolled oats for my oatmeal. Chesapeake’s Bounty also sells breads.
Tamea often varies her menu based on what is at the market. This fall, we discovered how much we love roasted brussel sprouts and green cauliflower from impromptu purchases at the market.
Eating local, not only builds community and creates jobs, it is an adventure!