Vanguard Communications created its Buy Local Challenge in 2002 to “taste-test” social marketing strategies related to identifying, choosing and preparing food from local farms. This communications “incubator” was designed to help us and our clients identify barriers to consumer acceptance and demand for local food products. During that first Challenge, which took place in April, Vanguard staff, family and friends endured a trying month in which little but spinach and asparagus were available. Learning how to eat seasonally proved to be harder than it seemed. Now, buy local efforts are popping up throughout the country, and more and more consumers are discovering the joys and benefits of locally grown food. Read on for ideas and inspiration that might help you start your own Buy Local Challenge. For more information on conducting a Buy Local Challenge or creating a communications “incubator” for your issue, contact Brenda K. Foster at Happy eating!

Recipe: Southwest Lasagne

With local vegetables at their peak, it’s nice to find a dish that incorporates so many of them. Enjoy this take on traditional lasagne. For you gluten-free folks, use corn tortillas instead of wheat.

Southwest Lasagne


1 lb. ground beef, turkey or chicken

9-10 wheat tortillas (more if using corn tortillas)

3 ears of fresh sweet corn, cut from the cob

three plum tomatoes, diced

1/4 cup chopped scallions

1 can black beans, drained

1 jar chunky salsa (hopefully grown and packaged locally)

1 package taco seasoning

1 1/2 cups of shredded cheddar or monterey jack cheese (again, local is best)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Brown meat in pan, then add tomatoes, corn, and beans. Stir until heated through and toss with taco seasoning. Add salsa and stir until warmed. Line the bottom of a 13X9 baking dish with tortillas. Break as necessary to fit one layer on the bottom. Spoon half the ground meat/vegetable mixture over the tortillas and spread until covered. Top with one third of the cheese. Repeat these steps to add another layer. Place a final layer of tortillas on top, and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and the scallions. Place in oven for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and tortillas are heated through. Let rest for 10 minutes, then slice and serve.

Add comment July 21st, 2008

Marylanders do a Buy Local Challenge

Participating in the Buy Local Challenge has always been more about the issue than the competition, but I do like to win. Now, Marylanders get to win. Today the Governor launches a State-wide Buy Local Challenge. For this week starting Saturday, July 19th…..Maryland residents are encouraged to Buy Local and ask Where Their Food Comes From. In support of their challenge, I will be taking the Maryland challenge and seeing what happens in Silver Spring and the surrounding Maryland area….

We at Vanguard hope that other States will see the value in Buying Local and contact us to start their own initiative. So get ready Marylanders for good food, good stories and a good cause. To see more about the Maryland Buy Local Challenge visit:

Add comment July 18th, 2008



Ingredients needed:

  • 1/2 cup local buttermilk
  • 4 tablespoons hot sauce
  • 2 local eggs
  • 32 local okra pods, washed and cut in 1/2 lengthwise
  • Salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • Creole seasoning from scratch
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • Tomato Marmalade

In a mixing bowl, combine the buttermilk, hot sauce and eggs. Mix well. Add the okra and season with the salt and turn to coat evenly, and let sit for 30 minutes. In another mixing bowl, combine the flour and corn meal. Mix well and season with the Essence. Heat the oil in a large skillet to 360 degrees F.

Dredge each piece of okra in the seasoned flour coating completely. Fry the okra in batches for about 2 to 3 minutes, turning once to evenly brown. Remove the cooked okra, and drain on a paper-lined sheet pan. Sprinkle some Essence over the cooked okra. Continue to cook the okra in batches until all the okra is cooked. Serve while hot with the Tomato Marmalade.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients needed:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced local garlic
  • 1 cup julienned local yellow onion
  • 6 large local tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1/2 to 1 cup fresh orange juice, from 1 to 2 oranges
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper

In a sauté pan, heat the olive over medium high heat oil. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and onions and sauté until the onions are translucent and the garlic is fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste to the pan and cook for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, or until most of the moisture has been cooked out of the tomatoes. Add the remaining ingredients and cook until the liquid is reduced by 2/3, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and serve the marmalade in a heat-proof container either warm or room temperature.

Yield: a generous 2 cups

Add comment July 8th, 2008

The Top 10 Reasons to Buy Local

1. Learn that supporting your local economy makes you feel good.
2. Understand what the messages behind sustainable agriculture, organic farming, and healthy living really mean.
3. Find out how your food is grown and how it gets to you.
4. Uncover new-to-you, local ingredients that can spice up your recipe box.
5. Identify challenges to buying local and learn ways to overcome them.
6. Compare the difference in taste between local and conventional foods.
7. Realize the nutritional benefits found in local foods but not in processed foods.
8. Spot new places to shop for great food and meet new people to buy from.
9. Become aware of who grows your food and what it means to them to be a food producer.
10. Have Fun! Learning about and trying new foods can be a wonderful experience.

Add comment July 4th, 2008

The Benefits of Buying Local

It’s fresh. Buying local food means there is less time between when your food was harvested and when it gets to your table.

It’s better for the environment. Local foods require less packaging and travel less distances, saving on waste and pollution.

It’s better for you. Local foods are more nutritious: food loses vitamins and minerals as it ages.

It supports local economy. Buying from local farmers supports businesses in your community, aiding the overall local economy.

It creates access to food experts. Buying local food creates the opportunity for you to build a relationship with your food supplier, learning about what he or she knows best—food.

Add comment July 4th, 2008

Decisions, Decisions…

You might find yourself in a decision-making quandary when trying to buy local. Not everything you’re used to can be made in the local area. Does that mean you should forgo, or worse, give up and reach for the Doritos? No! Here are other values that will help you continue to support your local economy and the buying local concept when spending your food dollars.

If not LOCALLY PRODUCED, then—Family Farm. When faced with Kraft or Cabot cheeses, Cabot—a dairy co-op in Vermont—is the better choice. Supporting family farms helps to keep food processing decisions out of the hands of corporate conglomeration.

If not FAMILY FARM, then—Organic. This is one of the most readily available alternatives in the market and making this choice protects the environment and your body from harsh chemicals and hormones.This is one of the most readily available alternatives in the market and making this choice protects the environment and your body from harsh chemicals and hormones.

If not ORGANIC, then—Local business: Basics like coffee and bread make buying local difficult. Try a local coffee shop or bakery to keep your food dollars close to home.

If not a LOCAL BUSINESS, then—Terroir: Not terror…terroir, which means, “Taste of the Earth”. Purchase foods famous for the region they are grown in and support the agriculture that produces your favorite non-local foods such as Brie cheese from Brie, France or Parmesan cheese from Parma, Italy.

Add comment July 4th, 2008

Farmer’s Market Survival Guide

1. Take public transportation or be prepared to walk. Unlike the supermarket, it’s difficult to park close since streets are often blocked in and around the market.

2. Take plenty of cash. It makes each transaction faster as the vendors typically aren’t “wired” for credit cards (think carbon copies.) And, it’s an easy way to work backwards against a budget.

3. Get there early for good selection. There is no “back room” that magically restocks the shelves. When these vendors are out of goods, they pack up and head home, especially considering most of them got on the road before dawn to bring their food to your neighborhood.

4. Don’t be surprised if the produce is a little dirty. There aren’t fancy cases that “rain” and “thunder” atop the fruits and veggies. Not to mention organic produce isn’t always pretty. However, there are some vendors with carefully handled, triple-washed produce. It just depends.

5. Talk to the vendors. If you are unsure about a new ingredient or vendor, ask for a recipe or better yet, a sample. Vendors love to give samples and while you may arrive on an empty stomach you can leave full after sampling cheese, berries, fruit, and milk.

6. If you don’t have anything nice to say…Unlike a supermarket where your criticism of the products will likely go unnoticed, at a farmer’s market, you are speaking directly with the person who grew your food. If something doesn’t look so great, bypass it and ask for a recommendation. Growers are proud of their offerings, and they’ll relish the chance to show off their best.

7. Expect a wide array of produce. You’ll be surprised by how a seasonal selection offers many new and unusual foods. And, if you can’t find something, chances are, a few tables down you’ll find what you were looking for as their specialties vary. You should have no trouble picking up two-thirds of your grocery list at a farmer’s market.

8. Try the meat, you won’t be disappointed. Many people think they can’t find meats at a farmer’s market, but usually there are a few meat vendors with all the cuts you’d find at your supermarket and even more. When is the last time you saw spicy goat sausage at Giant?

9. Take your own bag(s). A good sized market bag is a lifesaver for you and the vendors as it cuts down on their overhead and allows you to really stock up. Maybe bring a cooler sack for meats and cheeses and a mesh bag for produce.

10. Hit Starbucks after the farmer’s market. While for many of us, chain establishments are a fact of life, canvassing a farmer’s market with a fast food container or coffee chain drink in your hand doesn’t send the farmer’s a strong message of support.

Add comment July 4th, 2008

Easy Ways to Eat Local

Hit the farmer’s market before the supermarket. Plan your meal around local ingredients you find at the market, and round out your needs with a quick trip to the supermarket.

Shop on the weekends. Most markets take place on the weekends and give you an opportunity to spend time browsing the fresh selections and chatting with vendors. You can go home and begin preparing your local foods for the week.

Feed the freezer. Imagine fresh fruits and veggies in January?!?! It’s easy. Make lasagna with local tomatoes or a soup packed with fresh veggies and freeze them! You can also make personal size meals for a brown bag lunch.

Branch out. Maybe your usual food repertoire could use some fresh ideas. The farmer’s market provides a perfect chance to try new ingredients when they’re in season, and lets you talk to its grower to find out the best way to prepare your new food.

Go out! Many DC Metro area restaurants emphasize local foods in their dishes. Ask around, you might be surprised how many options you find that serve up local flavor.

Add comment July 4th, 2008

Questions to Ask Food Producers

Flirt with your food producer! Brush up on your conversational skills and talk about the food you’re purchasing. Buying local is about many things, including building relationships. It’s important not only to support your local economy, but also to understand the food you’re eating. This fresh, local food is good for you, and tastes good. Who knows most about that than the person who grew it?

Whether buying rutabaga at a farmers market or ordering a cut of meat at Whole Foods, you’re interacting with someone and food is what you’ve got in common. Take some time to talk about it.

Listed below are some suggested questions to help you break the ice. Ask away…

  • Where does this food come from?
  • How did it get here?
  • How was it grown?
  • What’s in season?
  • How can I use it?
  • What serving suggestions or recipes might you have?
  • Do you sell to any area restaurants?
  • How does your price compare to supermarkets?

Add comment July 4th, 2008

The Rules of the Game

Buying local is about supporting the local economy (no matter where you are), but most importantly, it’s about learning. Learning about food, learning about health and nutrition, learning about the local economy. Buying locally grown foods supports many aspects of daily life than you might know, and this Challenge is a great opportunity to find out how.

Here are the criteria that will help you know what to do during the challenge:

Local is? Local foods can be defined as anything grown within a 250-mile radius of your current location. Here in DC, that translates to Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

But where? It’s not a problem if you’re out of town for work or for vacation, just eat local to that area. It will be fun to ask around the city your visiting to identify restaurants with local menus or farmer’s markets you can visit for a snack.

And who? Tell everyone. Spread the buy local buzz wherever you go and be sure to invite folks to visit the website and/or join the blog.

So when? Whenever you can. This Challenge is self-regulated. Commit goals for yourself and strive to meet them based on your deadlines. Pick a daily objective, weekly objective, or a monthly objective. Work with what’s right for you.

Add comment June 21st, 2008

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