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I've been following the foodblog by phlawless, Living La Vida Local with great interest. Eating locally produced foods has many pluses: fresher, better tasting food; money pumped into the local economy; less fuel consumption for transporting foods; (sometimes) sustainable farming methods; funky items not likely to be found in a supremarket; and (yes, I know it sounds extreme) a less likely target for bioterrorism. On the downside, it can be logistically complicated and pricey to be a locavore (at least in my experience!)

My biggest step toward eating locally has been to subscribe to Ivy Brand's community supported agriculture (CSA) program in southern Anne Arundel County. It's been great so far, and I'm trying to work in meats from Polyface Farms in Staunton, VA.

Are you tring to eat locally DelMarVa-ites? Any tips? Frustrations?

Bridget Avila

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Bavila:

Thanks for taking the initiative.

Over the past few years I've tried to make shopping at the farmers market a weekly habit and now volunteer there at least two weekends a week, even more lately.

This past week, I spent $48 at supermarkets and $17 at the farmers market, the latter reflecting a discount a couple of the farms give me (3 items total).

So, around 26% of this week's expenses went towards local farms.

The supermarket in this case was Whole Foods. I usually shop at a number of other places, but didn't have the time or need. The Tenleytown WF carried only 5 local items in the Produce department, only mushrooms from Pennsylvania.* Last week, the Georgetown store, still much larger, had 18 local items and seems to make more of a concerted effort to find local sources and let shoppers know about them on chalkboards that resemble notices of Daily Specials at bistros and tratterias. It may be PR, but was worth noting.

I rarely buy eggs or milk, and never buy meat at the market, due to expense. I also place great value on imported Italian, French and Spanish cheeses, pasta, oil, tomatoes, olives, anchovies and Asian items, too. I will never be as much of a diehard as one of the co-founders of FRESHFARM Market who says she rarely buys groceries elsewhere unless they're something like almonds. I don't see the point.

*Ricotta from a dairy that also sells at local farmers markets is always in the cheese department, too.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Are you tring to eat locally DelMarVa-ites?  Any tips?  Frustrations?

I don't live locallly, and am not presently trying to be any more of a locavore than I can manage easily, but I wanted to ask whether or not you plan on doing this over the winter? Because you either need to get busy preserving food yourself, or find a local source that's willing to do it for you.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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Are you tring to eat locally DelMarVa-ites?  Any tips?  Frustrations?

I don't live locallly, and am not presently trying to be any more of a locavore than I can manage easily, but I wanted to ask whether or not you plan on doing this over the winter? Because you either need to get busy preserving food yourself, or find a local source that's willing to do it for you.

I don't have any intention right now of going 100% within 100 miles now...or probably ever. BUT, my goal is to steadily increase my local purchases. In large part, this will mean sticking to eating seasonally. I have little problem buying only local strawberries, tomatoes, and asparagus, and just eating other foods throughout the year. My CSA runs spring, summer, and fall, so I'm set for all but the winter for produce. If I have to buy non-local produce in the winter, I'm ok with that right now.

As for preserving foods, I have no experience canning, and no equipment! Perhaps I'll hop onto Yahoo's freecycleannapolis to look for some. When we're deeper into tomato and pepper season, I do intend to freeze some tomato dishes, and probably some diced peppers. I also have limited freezer space. I'd love an extra freezer, but at present no were to put one.

I do think it would be nice to do a 100-mile meal. Must talk to my CSA farmer about this. Anyone heard of any restaurants in the area doing local-only events?

Bridget Avila

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My first thought on reading Pontormo's post was "$17 at the Dupont Market? What did you get -- a bag of arugula, three plums and an artichoke?"

Hard as it is for me not to be glib, I thought I'd instead ask how we expect localization to succeeed when the locally-grown produce is so freakishly expensive? (apparently penury is my theme for the day)

My wife and I marvel at the speed money flies from our pockets on market days -- $8/lb bacon; $12/lb haricots; $5/pint strawberries; a plastic baggie of salad greens roughly the same size and cost of the cheap dope I used to buy in college.

I'm not accusing the farmers of gouging or getting rich, and yes, the quality and taste are worlds apart from the supermarket stuff, but I'm already cutting back: why pay seven bucks for a pocketfull of potatoes when I can get ten pounds for less than that at the local store? And no more ramps unless I wrench them from the ground myself.

More important, unless food prices can be gotten within shouting distance of grocery store prices eating local is doomed to remain a hobby for the monied and food-obsessed minority.

If all you want is good produce, that's not a problem. But if you think that localization is good on a larger level, then there's a problem.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I don't have any intention right now of going 100% within 100 miles now...or probably ever.  BUT, my goal is to steadily increase my local purchases.  In large part, this will mean sticking to eating seasonally.  I have little problem buying only local strawberries, tomatoes, and asparagus, and just eating other foods throughout the year.  My CSA runs spring, summer, and fall, so I'm set for all but the winter for produce.  If I have to buy non-local produce in the winter, I'm ok with that right now.

As for preserving foods, I have no experience canning, and no equipment!  Perhaps I'll hop onto Yahoo's freecycleannapolis to look for some.  When we're deeper into tomato and pepper season, I do intend to freeze some tomato dishes, and probably some diced peppers.  I also have limited freezer space.  I'd love an extra freezer, but at present no were to put one.

Freezing's great (but takes a lot of space, as you note), and you might want to consider pickling and jams as relatively easy and low risk (from a food safety point) introductions to preserving food.

As Busboy points out, most local produce available at markets is pretty expensive, particularly if it's organic, though you can likely negotiate a deal to buy several bushels at a time from a particular farm and get a better deal. Of course, you'll have to take a couple of days off your job/usual life to process it all.

I live in Atlanta, so at least one of our CSAs here actually goes year 'round. Of course, one can get mighty tired of kale, mighty tired.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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My first thought on reading Pontormo's post was "$17 at the Dupont Market?  What did you get -- a bag of arugula, three plums and an artichoke?"

Hard as it is for me not to be glib, I thought I'd instead ask how we expect localization to succeeed when the locally-grown produce is so freakishly expensive?  (apparently penury is my theme for the day)

What I've never quite been able to figure out (and I think it's because it doesn't quite add up) is how big agriculture manages to provide food so cheaply. Lots of it's to do with economy of scale and automation, of course, but I also think that we're all somehow subsidizing the production.

Grocery store produce consistently strikes me as too cheap.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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More important, unless food prices can be gotten within shouting distance of grocery store prices eating local is doomed to remain a hobby for the monied and food-obsessed minority.

I disagree, Busboy. At least at the AA county FM, there's plenty of produce for prices near what you'd pay at the supermarket (sometimes even lower). BUT. These are from farmers who are not shooting for organic crops. Now, they don't just douse everything in the same way the industrial farms might, but they still use pesticides when they need to. So perhaps it's the organic stuff that's the real cost issue? Maybe the DC FMs are gouging their patrons? The AA county FM also takes foodstamps, and I've seen patrons use them there.

The whole class divide over food does bother me. I often ponder how to solve that.

And local foods are seen in some grocery stores here. The most I've seen is at Graul's, a local chain. I've never seen local anything at our Whole Foods, but then I don't shop their regularly.

Bridget Avila

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My first thought on reading Pontormo's post was "$17 at the Dupont Market?  What did you get -- a bag of arugula, three plums and an artichoke?"

Hard as it is for me not to be glib, I thought I'd instead ask how we expect localization to succeeed when the locally-grown produce is so freakishly expensive?  (apparently penury is my theme for the day)

What I've never quite been able to figure out (and I think it's because it doesn't quite add up) is how big agriculture manages to provide food so cheaply. Lots of it's to do with economy of scale and automation, of course, but I also think that we're all somehow subsidizing the production.

Grocery store produce consistently strikes me as too cheap.

We are most definitely subsidizing big agriculture. So our taxes are paying a large part of our grocery bill.

Bridget Avila

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My first thought on reading Pontormo's post was "$17 at the Dupont Market?  What did you get -- a bag of arugula, three plums and an artichoke?"

Indeed!

First, even with kid(s?) ensconced somewhere in the land of BBQ there's more of you in number alone let alone height. So figure my $17 is your $34 or $50, depending.

Second, discount.

Third, it was a strategy, a kind of deliberate accident, that I left my bank card home and just carried the bills that I had on hand.

A purple cauliflower weighing 2 pounds, 9 ounces after being trimmed. (Discounted.)

More than a pound of green beans...almost 1 1/2. NOT organic, but prettier and very fresh.

Five very small field tomatoes. Run of the mill. But, hey.

Seven white peaches, one down at the bottom of the box with a bit of a bug hole.

Mint.

Parsley.

Basil--freebie; the centerpiece for Chef Demo since Jamie decided to drizzle pesto over the duck galantine.

Would have bought a whole lot more if discipline not imposed. Left with dollar to my name.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Let me add that while quite a few years have passed since I lived in St. Louis, I was amazed at how inexpensive food was at a street market I used to attend. It was of humble origin, smack on the border of Wash U and close to the railroad tracks. Smoky BBQ shack up front with sweet potato pie. Clientele largely African-American or newly arrived (Eastern Europe, Russia, Ethiopia...) and a little bit older, but a fair number of the young and borderline hip came down, too. A major reason for shopping there was that it cost less than the supermarkets. Ripeness and variety was a bonus. No one cared about organic, heirloom, free range... Since stalls carried bananas and citrus fruit, I don't know how much was local and how much was just supermarket stuff without a roof overhead. No one cared about that either, though I am fairly certain I bought a lot of local food there.

Produce cost less than it does in midwestern college towns and a whole lot less than it costs in ones that feature organic produce and cater to D.C. types.

I think I mentioned elsewhere that I spoke to a farmer down at Eastern Market (here in D.C.) who had just started traveling to here from his farm in Maryland. He charges a lot more than he does in Baltimore where the Cost of Living is lower and shoppers expect their grocery bills to correspond. Business was good enough for him to keep returning.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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I think I mentioned elsewhere that I spoke to a farmer down at Eastern Market (here in D.C.) who had just started traveling to here from his farm in Maryland.  He charges a lot more than he does in Baltimore where the Cost of Living is lower and shoppers expect their grocery bills to correspond.  Business was good enough for him to keep returning.

Hah! We are being gouged! Next World Cup, Toigo's buying the beers, and not me.

Bavila -- I don't hunt for organics, just what looks good, and I know that many of the farms at the markets I go to are not organic, so that may not be the root (ha ha) cause. I'd love to see the numbers on a local farm-to-market vs. the Agribusiness-to-Safeway ends of the business.

Back in the good old days, Giant used to brag about its local produce. That was before they were bought by an international conglomerate, though.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I think I mentioned elsewhere that I spoke to a farmer down at Eastern Market (here in D.C.) who had just started traveling to here from his farm in Maryland.  He charges a lot more than he does in Baltimore where the Cost of Living is lower and shoppers expect their grocery bills to correspond.  Business was good enough for him to keep returning.

Hah! We are being gouged! Next World Cup, Toigo's buying the beers, and not me.

Bavila -- I don't hunt for organics, just what looks good, and I know that many of the farms at the markets I go to are not organic, so that may not be the root (ha ha) cause. I'd love to see the numbers on a local farm-to-market vs. the Agribusiness-to-Safeway ends of the business.

Back in the good old days, Giant used to brag about its local produce. That was before they were bought by an international conglomerate, though.

The key to buying at the farmers' market is to buy what is in the height of season, At Mt Pleasant, Reid has been selling quarts of berries/cherries for 3 quarts for 10 dollars. Wheatland sells their superb summer squash for MUCH less if you buy several pounds than just one pound. I buy what is in glut. Meat is not the price you see at Costco, but it is pastured meat that you don't have to worry about it and I just buy and eat smaller quantities. The eggs are wonderful and at 3.50 a dozen, that's a cheap meal. At Dupont I love Keswick's yougurt. Yes, it is more expensive than commercial yogurt, but it is so much richer in flavor. A quart lasts me a week and when I served some to an Indian friend, he said: oh, it is just like my Mother's! But I do check the stands for price and quality. There are differences.

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Here are some of my local faves, Bavila. I'm in Edgewater, just south of you in Annapolis. Sounds like you've got the farmer's markets covered.

Near my place on route 214 in Mayo is Peninsula Farms. They have lots of local stuff as the summer goes on. Fresh corn from the Eastern shore every day at about 11:00 AM, veggies, and if you're lucky, fresh soft shell crabs. They get them some days about 5 PM and they go fast. Take route 2 south to 214 east and go about 2 1/2 miles, they're on the left. Plenty of fish bait there if you want to catch your own dinner!

Also for fresh soft shells and local seafood, Bob Evans seafood in West River. Don't be put off by the redneck garage atmosphere, they have good stuff. Turn right on Muddy Creek road from 214 east, go about 8 miles or so. Bob Evans is on the right just past the Swamp Circle saloon. :smile:

In Edgewater on Mayo road is Chesapeake seafood. They have Maryland jumbo lump crab meat for 27.99/pound, better quality and $10/pound cheaper than Annapolis seafood and others. Not sure what McNasby's in Eastport has these days. From route 2 south, take a left at the third light after the South River Bridge on Mayo road. Chesapeake seafood is about a 2/3 mile down on the right. Not local exactly, but Chesapeake sells all wild Gulf shrimp, no farm raised gunk.

On route 424 in Davidsonville (around the corner a little ways north from Homestead gardens) is the Mount Airy u-pick farm. Their big claim to fame is strwberries in late May/early June. They said they'd be having u-pick corn and rasberries starting in late July. If it comes to pass, I'll let you know.

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Great gouge, DTB. I might have to check out Peninsula Farms this week. I'd be happy to find a good seafood source. It's ironic that fresh local seafood can seem so hard to find right here on the water.

Oh, and as for the cost discussion, I split a large share from my CSA with a friend. Our cost is $20 each per week, for approximately 1/2 bushel each. The spring was a little sparse what with the drought. The root veggies didn't do too well. But man, the summer boxes have been loaded! Definitely a deal for the money. I get a box today. I'll take a pic of my share and post it.

Bridget Avila

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I look forward to the pictures and admire your dedication, Bavila.

I seem to recall that when looking up the web site for one of the local farms (Heinz? New Morning?) that there are CSA's available in the DC area. Does anyone know? Participate?

I like the idea of supporting a farm; PBS has shown a moving documentary about one farm in CA and the CSA that helped a farmer by investing even more seriously, helping him buy an adjacent farm up for sale, building a barn, and so forth.

As intriguing as mystery-food is, I much prefer the whole experience of going to the market, selecting what I WANT to eat, people-watching, etc.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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"I'd be happy to find a good seafood source. It's ironic that fresh local seafood can seem so hard to find right here on the water."

It's true. When I first moved to the area, Annapolis seafood in Severna Park was a pretty good source for fish. As the years went by, they focused more on prepared food and the fish counter sufferred. The Edgewater location is mostly lame as well. The Forest drive location gets some decent local fish, but you have to be choosy and buy what looks best, not have a preconceived thing you have to have.

A shortish road trip will get you to Frank's seafood in Jessup (about 35 minutes). http://franksseafood.com/contact.html

They have the tremendous advantage of being right at the Jessup seafood distributorship where most of the seafood for the area's stores and restaurants comes from. They usually have good quality, good selection and somewhat better prices. As you probably know, thw Whole Foods in Annapolis has some pretty fish, but it can be very pricy. We have had good luck with the Whole Catch frozen fish (in the case behind you if you're at the Whole foods fish counter). 6 ounce fillets vacuum packed fresh. We've had the dolphin (mahi-mahi) and wild salmon, both very good and less than $8 for dinner for 2.

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Bavila, thanks for the information about the local CSA. I had tried to find one a couple of years ago, and could only find NoVA or DC pickups. I wonder if you have ever found a beef seller – noting that the CSA’s family raises cattle.

Btw, could you update your link to the CoolGreens article from the Cap? The link is broken.

Usually, I go to the Sunday Baltimore FM under the JFX. I’m happy with the selection and the prices, and usually stockpile a couple of things like peas. They compete with NM chiles that we brought back from Hatch last year in the freezer. I occasionally go to the Saturday market but the neighborhood can be iffy at times.

I got to the FM in Falls Church last week for the first time, and found prices about 50cents higher than Balt or Annapolis. It does make sense that a seller will get the price she can for what she sells. Same as gas… I think our prices in Annapolis are quite good, tho I am not looking for strict organic either. I’m sure that would be different.

Maureen

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Ok, here's one half of tonight's box:

gallery_21496_2766_729728.jpg

Baby carrots, baby beets, patty pan squash, mixed tomatoes, kohlrabi, blackberries, wine berries, blueberries, green & yellow beans, mint, summer savory, and kale.

There was also a head of romaine, but my friend and I decided to trade off the one head of lettuce for the squash instead of trying to cut them both in half. I'd say this week's take was a little smaller in volume than last week's. I figure there's no way I'd get all that organic produce in a supermarket for less than $20, and the quality just doesn't compare anyway.

There's another CSA in PG County, Claggett Farm. What I know about them is mainly from their web site. The link probably won't last for long. They are a joint effort with Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Capitol Area Food Network. Some of the crop goes to underserved communities in the DC area, the rest is sold through a CSA. So, see, Busboy, local produce isn't just available to the affluent ;-) I think their pickups are in PG County and Dupont.

MsAzadi, as for the Cool Greens article, I actually wrote that, but it is copyrighted by the Capital, so I won't post it here. I'll PM it to you and anyone else who's interested.

Bridget Avila

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Hello! We're moving to North Reston in 2-3 weeks! Any suggestions as to the best markets, best places to get thai, indian, chinese, pizza etc? anything worth seeing, doing that while we are hotel bound for 2 weeks? THANKS!

Stacey C-Anonymouze@aol.com

*Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody reads!-G. B. SHAW

JUST say NO... to CENSORSHIP*!

Also member of LinkedIn, Erexchange and DonRockwell.

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I did the Claggett farm CSA share a few years back. For me, it wasn't worth the effort due to two things. First, they don't deliver except to a couple locations, so I had to drive to Upper Marlboro every Tuesday. Second, it was an AWFUL growing year, cold and wet, so yields were low due to no fault of their own. Multi-year participants said it usually was much better. For me, with the trafficky drive and the fact that we're out of town a good bit, and we have our own garden, we just didn't get the value for $400.

That being said, some of the unofficial things we got were the best, particularly quantity wise. They have big stands of cutting flowers for the taking, which we did several times. Also, as a crop was finishing, they'd let you go out in the field and get as much as you wanted. We did very well at the tail end of the broccoli and tomato crops. Plus, you are helping to subsidize their food bank efforts.

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I usually leave the farm market spending a lot of money. I use TP. The farmers are still selling unripe tomatoes, peaches, etc. How is this different than the chain groceries. The vendor even said the tomatoes are not really ready yet. If I go, which I do, it is to sustain the "idea" of fresh farm veggies or for the experience. I have rarely bought a vegetable or a fruit from anywhere that tastes the way I expect it to, anymore. My .02$.

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I have rarely bought a vegetable or a fruit from anywhere that tastes the way I expect it to, anymore.  My .02$.

I'm not sure if the abbreviation TP = Takoma Park. Elsewhere at eGullet the plight of the tasteless apricot and strawberry have been discussed. General Foods, perhaps.

I think this year's growing season is running a little behind and maybe we're all impatient. Since some farmers bring hydroponic produce to the market, they are obviously as driven by the need to make a profit as supermarkets are and are taking advantage of shoppers who don't know any better and buy tomatoes year round rather than waiting for nature to take its course.

By the end of the month, the field tomatoes should be bountiful. Of the few small ones I bought the first week they were available, one was not ready, two were fine, but not the best. White peaches: all but one were ready to eat, ripe and juicy; one needed 8 hours to soften on the sill. Smell the air around the piles of fruit. Yes, this week the yellow peaches will probably be more fragrant, the next week...? We've had bizarre weather and I don't know how that will affect what we can buy. Certainly the pellet-like peaches from CA at WF would serve David well were another Goliath to come along. Safeway had a few soft nectarines, but the flesh was kind of mushy and taste insipid.

There is just no comparison between the apples at the market in the fall and winter and the ones in the store---so, so much better! Same with peaches, usually, with the exception of GA ones every once and a while. Can't remember the last time I bought anything other than grape or plum tomatoes in a supermarket and both pale in comparison to the sweet pear, ripe Romas, Purple Cherokees, Striped Germans..... And the kinds of greens, the tender lettuces, globe zucchini, lavendar eggplants, pink beets...

* * *

And B, thanks for showing your basket of goods! Kale (my favorite kind: called black cabbage or cavolo nero in Italy) really cooks down--maybe you could combine it with the beet greens.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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I usually leave the farm market spending a lot of money.  I use TP.  The farmers are still selling unripe tomatoes, peaches, etc.   How is this different than the chain groceries. The vendor even said the tomatoes are not really ready yet. If I go, which I do, it is to sustain the "idea" of fresh farm veggies or for the experience.  I have rarely bought a vegetable or a fruit from anywhere that tastes the way I expect it to, anymore.  My .02$.

As irked as I am by how much I spend, I almost always enjoy what I eat because I almost always taste before I buy. Never had a farmer come across the table at me as I sample cherries and strawberries, and almost everyone puts out peaches and tomatoes (still early season for them, but the batch I picked up last week went down real nice). Smell the greenbeans. Touch the lettuce. Trust your senses.

One of my favorite market memories is my daughter, then 9 or so, going through a bushel basket of cantaloupes smelling and knuckle-rapping each one with all the seriousness of a French housewife, looking for the perfect melon. Which, of course, she found. (This time next week she'll be shopping for Cavaillons.)

(Pontormo: white peaches; ripe in 8 hours, overripe in 16)

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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  • 2 weeks later...

A few more ideas for the denizens of greater Annapolis for getting local stuff.

The Riva Market carries very nice Roseda aged beef. Roseda is a farm in Monkton, MD.

They don't have a huge amount and they seem to have more on Friday and Saturday (i.e. they stock up for the weekend). We tried a piece of dry aged sirloin and it was delicious. Last weekend they had tenderloin, strip steaks, sirloin, and hamburgers (the burgers they always have, they're frozen and vacuum packed). Riva market is on Riva Road in Riva, not surpringly, about a half mile south of the South river bridge on the left.

A little further down Riva road on the right is Riva Gardens (notice a trend here?). A nice garden center that also carries local produce in the summer. Usually not a huge selection, but what they have is usually good.

Another good local supplier is My Butcher and More in Crofton. http://www.mybutcherandmore.com/

Nice quality meats with a good selection. Lately they've had beautiful hangar steak that we've been enjoying for a nice price, $4.49/lb on sale this week. Owner Mike is very helpful and they have a nice feature in that they will vacuum pack any of your purchases for keeping a few days or easy freezing.

I did check out the Mt Airy U-pick farm the other day and the corn and raspberries aren't in yet. I'll post if I find that to change. Peninsula Farms has been having a nice run of soft shell crabs and local produce lately also.

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