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We are in the heat of the summer! Agricultural fairs and shows are happening around the state, watermen are busy pulling crab pots out of the water, and farmers markets are bustling with customers wanting fresh produce.

This time of year, Marylanders are enjoying their favorite seasonal staples like crabs, sweet corn, watermelon and more — all thanks to Maryland producers and watermen. To celebrate Maryland’s incredible bounty and to recognize the efforts of Maryland farms and seafood operations, Gov. Larry Hogan proclaimed July 17-25 “Maryland Buy Local Week.”

Throughout the week, Marylanders were encouraged to participate in the Buy Local Challenge by incorporating at least one locally grown, produced or harvested product into their meals each day.

This year, Maryland’s First Lady Yumi Hogan helped kick off the week-long celebration by sharing her pan-fried rockfish recipe using local seafood and other agricultural ingredients on an episode of her YouTube cooking show, Yumi Cooks. Later in the week, she also shared an original vegetarian dish, tofu buchim, that could be made using local ingredients.

Two more Maryland chefs joined in on the Buy Local Challenge and created unique recipes using local products. Chef John Shields, owner of Gertrude’s Chesapeake Kitchen in Baltimore, created two delicious recipes, a refreshing watermelon gazpacho and a corn and radish salad.

Chef Jasmine Norton, owner of The Urban Oyster in Baltimore, shared two recipes that highlighted fresh Maryland seafood and supported local watermen. Maryland blue crabs was the key ingredient in her Chesapeake crab tower recipe, while the invasive blue catfish was the star of her blue catfish tacos.

Additionally, the department shared tips on how to buy local everyday of Maryland Buy Local Week. This included suggestions like visiting farm stands, participating in the Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Trail, visiting a Maryland pick-your-own operation and buying local craft beverages.

Though the 2021 Maryland Buy Local Week has come to a close, I urge Marylanders to buy local all year long. Maryland Farmers Market Week, happening Aug. 1-7, provides another wonderful opportunity to do so.

Farmers markets are a great way for consumers to buy fresh, nutritious produce and value-added products, while getting to meet the person who grows or produces their food. Head to one of the more than 100 farmers markets located in every county in the state and Baltimore City.

Along with in-season produce, many markets include vendors that sell items like local craft beverages, nursery products, baked goods, dairy products, eggs, meats and honey. Find a farmers market near your with the department’s 2021 Maryland Farmers Market Directory.

Living in Maryland, we are fortunate to have such an abundance and variety of fresh products available to us. Buying locally has tremendous benefits to entire communities and the state. When you spend your money on Maryland agricultural and seafood products, you are strengthening our local food systems, helping small businesses grow, and building up rural economies. Buying locally is also better for the environment and better for you.

Joseph Bartenfelder is Maryland’s secretary of agriculture.

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