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Local food revolution: Amid pandemic, cooped-up customers flock to Maryland farms, CSA programs

Trucks rumbling by honked in greeting at seeing farmers John Rigdon and Andrea McGuirk-Rigdon. With the growing season coming to an end, the Harford County couple was preparing to shutter their retail shop, located on the ground floor of a double drive-thru corn crib along the rural road, its red paint peeling with age.

Rigdon Farms dates back to the 1700s; the owners have loyal customers who come out to pick their own blueberries in the summer, or to buy a bale of hay for feed. But this year, more than ever before, saw new arrivals: young families with kids on a kill-two-birds-with-one-stone mission to avoid the grocery store and get out of the house. Sales this year have about doubled.

From Harford County to Baltimore City, a local food revolution has taken root in Maryland amid the coronavirus pandemic. Grocery store-leery consumers have signed up for community supported agriculture, or CSA, boxes in droves, and even started their own tiny plots and chicken coops. Longtime farmers like the Rigdons have embraced social media and new technologies to reach customers, while others are expanding their home-delivery operations. Experts hope it’s a shift that will outlive the coronavirus.

At the beginning of the pandemic, “Everybody was freaking out ‘Ah there’s going to be a food shortage,’” said Mary Miles, a 29-year-old publicist living in Baltimore’s Hampden neighborhood.

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