Southern Maryland Meat Initiative urges consumers to buy local

As tobacco farming dwindles in Maryland, many farmers are searching for a way to stay profitable.

A new initiative is focused on selling high-quality, fresh meat locally.

But is livestock the future of Maryland farming?

Yates Clagett hopes so. He turned to raising cattle after the tobacco buyout of the late 90s.

And he's one of the first Maryland farmers selling beef locally through the new Southern Maryland Meat Initiative.

Farmers in five counties are involved: Prince George's, Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, and Saint Mary's.

In 2009, cattle made up $48 million of Maryland's $1.6 billion agricultural industry.

"We developed quality standards to make sure customers are getting really wholesome, well-raised, humane, hormone-antibiotic free product," says Janna Howley, Agriculture Marketing Specialist for the University of Maryland Extension.

Grants from the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission paid for two freezer display cases for each county, found in local markets.

And farmers are sharing a refrigerated trailer to transport meats.

"We have a lot of beef, pork, lamb, goat, hopefully getting poultry and rabbit," Howley says.

And Clagett hopes more farmers take to the idea, to keep the freezers full. And Maryland farming thriving.

Maryland officials are challenging residents to a Buy Local Challenge starting next weekend.

The goal? To eat or drink one local product every day through the end of the month.