By Sally Voth - firstname.lastname@example.org
If Shenandoah County residents spent a fraction of their income on locally grown food, area farmers would have a bumper crop, according to Shenandoah Forum.
The organization, which advocates keeping Shenandoah County's rural, farming and historic essence, has issued a challenge that begins Friday and runs until October 16.
It is asking local residents to spend $10 of their weekly food budgets on local foods for 10 weeks.
"If each household in Shenandoah County spent just $10 a week on locally grown agricultural products, we would return an additional $9.6 million to our local farming friends and neighbors each year," a news release from Shenandoah Forum states.
The forum has issued "challenge cards," which can be marked at participating venues. Residents who spend at least $10 for at least 10 weeks will get a reusable shopping bag, according to its website. The cards can be printed online from the website, or can be picked up at area farmers markets and farm stores.
"Purchasing locally grown food invests not only in good health and nutrition but also puts the money spent on food to work keeping the agricultural backbone of the Shenandoah Valley's economy strong," Shenandoah Forum Chairman Seth Coffman states in the release.
Shenandoah Forum Executive Director Kim Woodwell said the organization is localizing a campaign kicked off in March by the Virginia Food System Council.
"We decided to do it during the peak growing season," she said. "[It's] just a way to build awareness and let people know there are options in the county to shop locally, and what the impacts are. Hopefully, once they finish their 10 weeks, they will continue to do it. It will become part of their habit...for years to come."
The local food movement has gained popularity as people want to support local farmers and the local economy, buy better quality, fresher food and have more variety, Woodwell said.
Participating vendors include area farmers markets, Holy Cow Delivery, The Farmhouse, J&L Green Farm, Swover Creek Farm Store, Woodbine Farm Market, Paugh's Orchard, The Market in Woodstock, Mowery Orchard, Shenandoah Farm Market and Deauville Farm, according to the forum's website.