BALTIMORE — U.S. Senator Ben Cardin today led a roundtable discussion with Congressmen John Sarbanes and Elijah Cummings, Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Joseph Bartenfelder (D-All), prominent conservation organizations and Maryland small business owners committed to community-driven agriculture, which centers on the production of local foods for local consumers, on ways that all levels of government can promote their efforts. Hosted by acclaimed chef Spike Gjerde at Woodberry Kitchen, a restaurant at the vanguard of Baltimore’s local foods community, an array of farmers, agricultural producers, purveyors and entrepreneurs from across the state shared their perspectives with the federal, state and local officials.
“This region’s local foods movement has made incredible recent progress in bringing the most fresh, tasty and nutritious foods to local residents, notching some notable business successes along the way,” said Senator Cardin. “Perhaps more impressive is that these small businesses are dedicated to respecting the traditions and integrity of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. They are proving that it is possible to strive for – and achieve – economic and environmental sustainability at the same time.”
“Providing Marylanders with more access to fresh and nutritious homegrown food is a win-win-win for our state,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “Creating a local food economy gives a much-needed boost to Maryland’s farmers, offers Marylanders healthier and more delicious food options and creates a more sustainable food system that reduces our impact on the environment.”
“Local food production sparks a culture of entrepreneurship that creates a strong local economy that benefits us all,” said Congressman Cummings. “The health benefits of local foods are countless. When we have access to fresh fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods produced in harmony with the environment, we will have the best chance for a healthy life for ourselves and for generations yet unborn.”
“Farmers, chefs, makers, producers, brewers and vintners drive millions of dollars of economic activity in the state, while providing us with delicious and nutritious food and drink all year round,” said Woodberry Kitchen Chef Spike Gjerde, Principal of Foodshed. “It is great that Senator Cardin and Congressmen Sarbanes and Cummings are taking time to connect with Maryland food communities.”
“It is great to see the growing number of businesses that are supporting our family farms by buying local agricultural products. We hope to see even more businesses strengthen and increase their commitment to buying local,” said Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Joseph Bartenfelder. “Every dollar spent on local agriculture contributes to the economic health of the community, keeps our land in farming, and benefits all Marylanders.”
“Agriculture represents Maryland’s largest industry and its role in shaping our business and actual landscapes cannot be underestimated,” said Senator Cardin. “As we search for ways to maintain the vitality of the region’s agricultural producers and ecological health alike, we find the local foods movement working toward both goals.”
A growing number of Maryland consumers are lending support to the growing movement, spawning a rise in the number of community supported agriculture (CSA) operations, restaurants and shops dedicated to offering local foods. Baltimore City alone, for example, now has almost two dozen farmers markets, where it was difficult to find one a couple decades ago.
“Educating people about local seafood options is a great way to promote local seafood businesses and ensure people get fresh, high quality fish, crabs and shellfish,” said Eric Schwaab, Chief Conservation Officer at National Aquarium, an event participant. “And by promoting economic values associated with clean water, we build even stronger community commitments to a healthy Chesapeake Bay.”
“It’s really remarkable just how many locally made products are out there today, and if you take the time to search them out, you frequently also find additional benefits – like a better environment – attached to them,” said Senator Cardin. “From cooking oils to Chesapeake oysters, there is real artistry springing forth as a result of the evolving local foods movement. It gives us additional proof that some very special things are being made in Maryland.”