Foraging in Maryland: Two Families Eat Local

A rudimentary distribution system made foraging in Maryland a challenge, but the authors and their families were determined to only eat local food. And for the most part succeeded.

| August/September 2006

Amid increasing media buzz about the virtues of local food, we set out to discover how feasible it is to eat only local food all the time. As two suburban moms, we wanted to know if “eat local” was just a hollow marketing slogan or a real alternative for families who hope to enjoy the best seasonal foods, invest in the local economy and help the environment. How much would it cost? Would the kids go for it? Would our guests appreciate it?

Pledging to search locally for a month, we defined “local” as grown and produced within a 150-mile radius of our suburban Maryland homes near Washington, DC. We knew there were agricultural riches in our region. Yet much of what we discovered — or failed to discover — foraging in Maryland and the surrounding environs surprised us.

Enjoying Local Produce

Our own small gardens, and those of friends and family, were our start. They yielded zesty nasturtium blossoms for salads, hot chile peppers, edamame, sweet cucumbers, herbs and other special produce. Renee’s father had enough collards in his backyard to supply her all year. But, to feed our families of four, we needed a lot more.

We quickly became regulars at four producer-only farmers markets near our homes, where we picked up traditional favorites like corn on the cob, carrots bursting with flavor, mesclun greens, and various melons and berries. Kristi, eight months pregnant with her third child at the time, enjoyed the added convenience of weekly home delivery from two community supported agriculture farms (CSAs).

By shopping at the farmers markets, we began to make new observations about our food.  The taste of local tree fruits was particularly striking. While they are typically grown using some pesticides due to the humid mid-Atlantic climate, the flavor was far superior to any shipped from across the country, organic or not. Kristi couldn’t stop craving local award-winning peaches and cream. The kids reveled in the fruit too, tasting new varieties like metheny and cardinal plums. Renee’s husband, Damon, especially enjoyed the long run of fresh apricots.

Rounding Up Meat, Fish and Dairy

We also tapped directly into the farming community. Kristi ordered Amish organic meat, dairy, produce and other items like maple syrup through a buying club with a biweekly delivery 30 minutes from home. Renee was in the habit of taking her family on bimonthly field trips to Springfield Farm in Sparks, Maryland, a one-stop shop of sorts, selling grass-fed beef and lamb, pastured pork, chicken, and rabbits, and fresh free-range eggs.

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