Sunday, August 3, 2008

Challenge to Eat Local for Virginia Farmers Market Week

Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
P.O. BOX 1163, RICHMOND, VA 23218,

August 3 - 9 2008
A CHALLENGE TO EAT LOCAL FOR VIRGINIA FARMERS MARKET WEEK By Todd P. Haymore, Commissioner, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Buy local. Eat local.

As the Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), I am delighted that so many Virginians are taking these ideas to heart and putting them into practice. They make sense for a lot of very good reasons.

If you’re not already on board, Virginia Farmers Market Week is the perfect time to join the crowd. This is a time we set aside to emphasize the importance of farmers markets and all the reasons why buying directly from a farmer makes sense.

I’ll get to those usual reasons in a moment, but first, let me tell you what makes Farmers Market Week 2008 unique.

This year we have issued a challenge to all Virginians to Eat Local for a Day. Choose a day during Farmers Market Week, August 3 – 9, 2008, and on that day, consume only foods and beverages grown or produced in Virginia. Then show us how you did it.

Send us a video showing what you bought, where you bought it, how you cooked it and, of course, how much you enjoyed it.

The best video will win a full-to-bursting prize basket of Virginia foods, beverages, a Virginia Grown polo shirt, a logo cap or tote bag, and a host of other Virginia items.

In addition, we’ll post it on our Web site and on YouTube.

The deadline for submission is September 3, 2008, and your video must feature locally-grown and Virginia Grown or produced products.

Look for complete details at

We’ve already heard from a variety of people who want to know more about the contest: Moms, teenagers, heads of food service at educational institutions, and shoppers who already frequent their local farmers markets.

Now we want YOU.

Teenagers, if you’ve never thought about where your food comes from and where to find local products, ask your Mom or Dad, or ask us at

Parents, if you make it a point to scout out local farmers markets and roadside stands but aren’t too sure how to make a video, ask your kids.

And for those of you who don’t do either, well, there’s no better time to start than now.

First, let me give you some suggestions about finding and buying Virginia products. You’ll find a list of farmers markets in your area at

You’ll also find locations to purchase or pick-your-own Virginia Grown fruits and vegetables, an availability chart, great recipes and much more. In addition to farmers markets and pick-your-own farms, you’ll find Virginia Grown products at roadside stands, flea markets, food festivals – there’s a list at - and in your local grocery store.

I was in a grocery store here in Richmond recently that had a farmers market inside the store, complete with photos of the farmers who grew each product.

Now let’s discuss why buying local make sense for Virginians, besides the chance to win a fabulous prize and see your video on YouTube.

Great taste is one of the main reasons people are flocking to buy field-fresh, ripe and ready Virginia Grown fruits, vegetables, eggs, honey, cheese and more. In addition to exceptional taste, you’ll find richer colors, firmer textures and better nutrition with local produce because it’s harvested while flavor, form and nutrition are at their peak.

Fruits and vegetables from distant locations are often harvested well in advance and diminish overall when shipped or stored for several days. When you select fruits and vegetables grown on nearby farms, you are choosing produce that was on the vine, in the field or on the tree just a short time before you get to enjoy it. The only way to get it any fresher is to pick it yourself. And a lot of people are doing that, too, and having a great time in the process at Virginia’s many pick-your-own farms and orchards.

Buying local is environmentally responsible because it reduces food miles, the distance food travels from the farm to your table. It also has food safety implications because purchasers get the chance to find out where their food comes from, who grew it and the production practices used to keep it safe to eat.

Don’t forget that when you buy Virginia Grown, you’re also enhancing your local economy, helping Virginia’s 46,000 farms continue to generate annual sales of approximately $36 billion and maintain about 388,000 jobs statewide and you are doing your part to maintain agriculture as Virginia’s number one industry.

You are also lending a hand to protect the state’s green and open spaces which provide habitats for wildlife, offer visual appeal and help keep the air clean.

Buying Virginia Grown and Virginia produced helps keep farmers farming and lessens the dependence on imported food.

Have I convinced you yet? If so, take the Eat-Local-For-A-Day Challenge and send us your video. But don’t stop there. Once you discover how easy it is to find Virginia products, you can establish a new lifelong habit, Buying and Eating Locally.

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