ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP/WJZ) — Gov. Martin O’Malley is urging Maryland residents to buy locally produced food.

The governor and the first lady hosted the 7th annual buy local cookout at the governor’s residence in Annapolis on Thursday.

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Governor O’Malley has supported the Buy Local Challenge for the last seven years and began hosting the cookout during his second year in office.

“Buy Local is more than a slogan-it’s a movement to preserve farmland, protect the environment, bolster local economies, and provide wholesome, nutritious great-tasting fresh food for more Maryland families,” said Gov. O’Malley. “As we celebrate the seventh year of the Buy Local Cookout at Government House, Katie and I encourage all of our fellow Marylanders to find local farmers markets and purchase locally grown products for their favorite dishes, not just during Buy Local Challenge Week, but all year long.”

The Buy Local Challenge, created in 2006 by the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission, has grown into a statewide initiative that has continued to grow.

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“The farmers, providers, chefs and small business owners who make Buy Local Challenge Week possible play a critical role in creating jobs in communities throughout our state,” said Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown.

“By supporting our agricultural community and the small businesses that use their products, we’ll continue to strengthen and grow Maryland’s diverse economy,” he said.

The cookout highlights healthy recipes made with locally grown foods. It also aims to help farmers to calling attention to food produced in Maryland.

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