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The state of Maryland is the latest to bring attention to the benefits of buying local food. The state kicked off a “Buy Local Challenge” week which encourages residents to use one-locally grown, produced or harvested product into their meals each day. The challenge is meant to raise awareness about the benefits of local farms and food so the use of fresh and local produce becomes more familiar. Thousands have already made a pledge to buy local for a week at an online website set up called the Buy Local Challenge. Organizers say shoppers who buy local not only get fresh food at a good price, they are also helping to preserve farmland, support the local economy and protect the environment through reduce shipping emissions. Locally grown foods also retain more nutrients and are often made without pesticides, hormones or other chemicals.
The Buy Local Challenge is part of Buy Local Week in Maryland which is celebrated in other states throughout the year. Madison County, New York just wrapped up its 4th annual Buy Local Week featuring an Open Farm Day in which forty farms opened their gates to the public, showcasing their pastures, barns and locally produced food. In Columbus, Ohio, the first annual Buy Local Week was held in June sponsored by the Columbus Co-op. The organization points out all of the advantages of local and sustainable farm food. Sustainable farms enhance biodiversity by cultivating a wide variety of plants and crops. Local and small-scale farms also help keep the water clean since they don’t use pesticides and fertilizers which often end up in storm runoff and eventually streams, rivers and lakes. Local farms also help conserve soil by utilizing no-till or low-till practices, composting and animal manure to prevent erosion.