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Community canneries cater to consumers who want to preserve produce
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Community canneries cater to consumers who want to preserve produce

HILLSVILLE—Community canneries aren’t as plentiful as they once were, but they are still in demand.

Canning at home can be costly and time-consuming. “The beauty of a cannery is you can do 100 jars at a time instead of seven at home,” explained Sarah Griggs, Carroll County Cannery operator.

Community canneries originated during the Victory Garden era of the 1940s, said Donna Meade, a Virginia Cooperative Extension family and consumer services specialist in Russell County, where two canneries still operate.

Meade said many of the canneries once were supported by local school systems because they were used for home economics classes. Over the years, the number of canneries has dwindled, and Virginia county governments now operate fewer than a dozen.

Darlene Beasley, a home canner for more than 50 years, said she learned the art of canning from her mother. Beasley started using the Carroll County Cannery because “it’s so convenient, and they have everything you need there.”

Each year, Beasley brings in fresh summer produce, and her family enjoys eating fruits and vegetables throughout the winter. The cannery has been county-operated since 1975. The facility offers equipment, jars and expertise to county residents from June through December.

Sandy Stoneman, a Virginia Cooperative Extension food safety agent in Wythe County, said she’s seen growing interest in canning among young families who want to preserve fresh produce. “They don’t want to learn how to can on their own, so they come to canneries or to Extension classes.”

Griggs is more than happy to show home canners how to prepare their produce, cook it and process the jars. County residents pay a $10 seasonal fee, plus 20 cents apiece for pint jars and 25 cents for quart jars.

Once the fruits and veggies are canned, they have a shelf life of at least a year, Stoneman said. “As long as the seal is intact, the food will be good.”

At the Prince Edward County Cannery, manager Patty Gulick said offering both commercial and home canning has helped the facility thrive. Consolidated from two county canneries in 1975, the current operation offers community members the chance to affordably preserve food for their families. Residents pay $1 to use the facility and can buy pint cans for 40 cents each, quart cans for 48 cents and gallon cans for $1.25.

Michelle McKenzie, director of Virginia Food Works that manages a commercial canning operation there, said the nonprofit organization’s goal is to work with farmers and others who want to make value-added foods from locally grown ingredients. Last year 30 commercial canners produced 28,000 units of food valued at more than $200,000. About a third of those canners were farmers.

Media: Contact Griggs at 276-730-3285.

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