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Gordon: Know your farmer, know your food

We are consistently surrounded by catchphrases and terms in today’s society. Some we consider in our everyday lives and others we don’t see as pertaining to us. When the term farm-to-table is used, some no doubt assume a fancy restaurant possibly in a major metropolitan area like Baltimore or DC utilizing food from the surrounding areas in their menu. Did you know that Carroll County offers farm-to-table right here in our own backyard?

Farm-to-table is the concept which promotes serving local products that are acquired directly from the producer to venues including restaurants, schools, homes, and more. This allows many local businesses to flourish and offer fresh local products to the consumer instead of the standard larger food growers whose products at times lack the freshness and quality of farm to table producers. The farm-to-table concept also includes changes in attitude regarding local economics, food quality, and food safety. No doubt we’ve all seen notices in the past regarding recalls and shortages on agriculture products from food to pig ears. While one can’t guarantee with absolute certainty anything in life, I know I’d prefer to buy pig ears for my dog locally then assume a major corporation is going to take the same interest and care in a product than my local farmers.

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According to the Carroll County Department of Economic Development, “Carroll County is home to over 1,100 farms and over 140,000 acres of farmland, and is committed to strengthening and supporting local farms and agribusinesses. Carroll County Grown connects agricultural producers and agribusiness to other industries, consumers, and restaurateurs through business and networking resources.”

The largest industry in our county is agriculture with the 2010 Census noting $112 million in agricultural products sold in the county per year. Currently, 73,000-plus acres of land in the county have been preserved. This places Carroll as the leader in the state in agricultural preservation and also one of the top counties in the United States. Our farmers and agricultural businesses in the county are also looking consistently for ways to utilize technology to better crop yield and this is a benefit for all who live here. Did you know that the first hydroponic greenhouse opened in Carroll County in 2018? The use of hydroponics can allow a quarter-acre under glass to grow roughly 7 acres worth of field crops year around.

Supporting farm-to-table, whether it is your table at home or local restaurants you frequent, offers not only the opportunity to see the quality of food or products one purchases. It also allows us to invest in local businesses which reinvest and spend their money in our local economy. This can be seen in purchasing new equipment, offering new products, hiring employees, or sponsoring local events and sports teams.

Carroll County offers a range of opportunities to the public from roadside farm stands to weekend farmers markets to on farm markets where customers can visit the location that products are grown. The diversity of offerings continues as some farms are not only supplying food, but also offering farm to table dinner events, tours to customers, and other seasonal events including Christmas tree cutting or flower picking. The local farms in the county not only include food, but also trees, grapes for wine, and a vast array of agricultural products.

If you haven’t visited the numerous farm businesses in our county, I’d recommend taking a drive and doing so. It is a good opportunity to see what our farmers, farm stands, and farmers markets in the county literally bring to our tables at home.

Some examples of producers and businesses include Baugher’s Orchards and Farms, Brothers Orchard, Evermore Farms, Hampstead Farmer’s Market, Local Homestead Products, Westminster Farmers Market, and countless others. So, whether it’s supporting a local restaurant that uses local products, utilizing them in your own home, or buying a local Christmas tree be sure to thank a farmer for the quality and value they add not only to our individual lives but also to our community.

Tom Gordon writes from Westminster. His column appears every other Saturday. Email him at tgordonwrites@gmail.com

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