Riding To Buy Fresh
In 2007, the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission started the Buy Local Challenge (BLC) to highlight the economic and environmental benefits of sourcing and consuming local ingredients. “And since then,” said Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, “it’s really taken off across our state.”
“Six years ago,” he said, “you did not see the amount of produce that was available in grocery stores that was advertised as ‘local.’ This movement, this awareness—the future is all about local economies.”
The BLC, along with the Maryland Department of Agriculture, promotes a market-driven and sustainable farming culture, where farmland preservation and environmental stewardship positively impact the quality of the air and water, and where consumers and leaders play equal parts in the development and sustainability of local agriculture. A balanced community should be full of safe, nutritious food and a clean and healthy environment.
On July 16, local Washington and Maryland chefs put their pedals to the metal to promote these initiatives—literally. In an effort to build relationships with area farmers, wine and cheese makers, and purveyors of produce and other farm-raised products, some of our favorite cooks revved up their motorcycles for a bike tour of some Maryland-based farms.
The Chefs Go Fresh tour, a joint function by the Maryland Department of Agriculture and Georgetown Media Group (i.e., yours truly), was a day of friendly chatting, sputtering engines and enlightening connections. The day began with a breakfast hosted by Robert Wiedmaier at his restaurant Brasserie Beck, full of fresh, local fare. From there, the chefs were off, as their bikes roared through downtown before breaking free in the back roads of Maryland countryside, stopping at farms for presentations by farmers.
The first stop was Shepherds Manor Creamery in New Windsor, run by husband-and-wife team Michael and Colleen Histon, who produce artisan sheep’s milk cheese. From there, Black Ankle Vineyards was just down the road. An environmentally sustainable estate vineyard, Black Ankle produces wines with complexity, depth and subtlety to rival old world styles.
The day concluded with a locally-sourced lamb roast hosted by Bryan Voltaggio, local chef darling and native Frederick, Marylander, who was a finalist on television’s “Top Chef” in 2009. His new Fredericksburg restaurant, “Family Meal,” was a fitting location to wrap up this day of camaraderie and culinary affection. Chefs and farmers sat around long tables and bars sharing heaping plates of fried green tomatoes, deviled eggs, country fried chicken, sautéed greens, baked beans and heaps of smoky, delicious lamb.
There is tremendous mutual benefit in supporting local farms, from better and more nutritious ingredients to lessening of energy consumption for food transportation. If everyone across the country embraced the Buy Local Challenge, it would bring a positive and profound impact to our farms, our communities and our planet for generations to come. It’s nice to know that our chefs agree.
Here are some highlights from the day, and the list of chefs that joined Georgetown Media Group on our culinary expedition. ★