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DED Connects Farmers to Local Businesses

photo of farmThe Montgomery County Department of Economic Development (DED) is helping local farmers access new markets by organizing agricultural tours for chefs, caterers and buyers. The first of the three scheduled farm tours took place on May 19 when food industry professionals visited the following farms: From the Earth Foods in Boyds, Rocklands Farm and Chocolates and Tomatoes in Poolesville and Lewis’ Orchard in Dickerson.

“Now that I know there are local farmers ready and willing to grow product for us, the creative gears are turning more toward the sustainable farm-to-fork cuisine,” said Oscar Bendeck, executive chef for Chef Geoff’s Restaurant in Rockville. “The freshness of goods coming straight from the farm to our restaurant is unparalleled.”

During the tour, Montgomery County’s farmers promised a summer of traditional standbys that include heirloom tomatoes, stone fruits and pasture-raised beef, but also unique items such as wasabi-flavored arugula and sorrel.

“We want the push to ‘buy local’ to be more than just a ‘catch-phrase;’ we want it to build relationships between producers and consumers,” said Steve Silverman, DED director. “That’s why we’re organizing these important farm tours this summer—to foster those relationships.”

The first tour, however, also revealed some challenges that included the timely distribution of local products to buyers.

“We need to be more efficient moving local products from our Agricultural Reserve to customers down-county and into the District,” said Jeremy Criss, DED’s agricultural services manager. “When farmers have to pack their vehicles, deliver their products and drive back, that’s valuable time away from their farms.”

DED will host two more farm tours in July and September. Farmers, chefs, caterers or buyers that want to participate can call Sarah Miller at 240.777.2010.
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