Buy local o.k., now eat local!

CHARLOTTE Agriculture Secretary Roger Allbee is inviting each state to participate in an Eat Local National Challenge during National Farmers Market Week Aug. 39. The challenge has already been greeted with great enthusiasm and many states are on board with their commissioner or secretary of agriculture to choose a day to eat only foods grown locally. Many states are also conducting their own Eat Local Challenges. I would like to challenge all Vermonters, as well as people across the country, to eat local for a meal, a day or even the full week during National Farmers Market Week. When you buy local you can reduce energy costs and get food items that are harvested at the peak of freshness for better taste and nutrition, said Allbee. Eating local gives you a chance to know the people who grow your food and how it is grown. It also keeps money in our local communities. Here is the challenge: pick a meal, a day or the entire week, during national Farmers Market Week to eat only foods grown within 100 miles for breakfast, lunch and dinner (snacks, too). Wild Cards can be used for certain items such as coffee or chocolate and exceptions can be made for spices and leaveners (like yeast or baking soda). Eating locally makes more sense than ever with rising food and fuel prices and food contamination scares, said Helen Labun Jordan, Buy Local coordinator for the Agency of Agriculture. Consumer groups like the localvores have pushed all of us to expand our thinking about what is possible with local foods. And with increases in farmers markets, CSAs, retail outlets carrying local foods, restaurants with local foods, schools that are connecting with local farmers; every year our options expand at an incredible rate. Many other states are coordinating their own events to bring attention to the importance of buying local. For example: Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, Bill Northey and his wife have challenged another couple to a local foods cook off, with a local producer as judge. Virginia is sponsoring an Eat Local for a Day challenge during farmers market week where participants have been asked to submit a video of their day with the winner receiving a prize basket of Virginia goodies. In Maryland, Buy Local Week kicked off with an all-local Maryland cook-out on the lawn of the Governors Mansion followed by visits from Agriculture Secretary Richardson to various farmers markets, CSAs, wineries and other agriculture producers throughout the state. In Michigan, the fourth annual Buy Fresh, Buy Local Select Michigan farmers market was recently held on the Capitol Lawn. Colorado has a labeling program, Colorado Proud, to help consumers identify locally grown items. These are just a few examples of how other states are drawing attention to the benefits of buying local. On Monday, Aug. 4, Allbees Eat Local kick off agenda includes visits to a variety of farms, a cooking demonstration and luncheon where the annual Buy Local award will be presented, and a visit to a farm stand. Along the way, he will purchase locally grown foods to prepare his own localvore dinner that evening.

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