Community Cannery Days

Community Cannery Days at Cedar Circle Farm are a community-minded event which have become an important part of Cedar Circle Farm Kitchen’s process of preserving the harvest. They are unique. You may be wondering what are they? How do they work? Well, using the words of a couple of participants, we’d love to share the inside scoop with you.

These events are modeled upon a historical tradition of communal canning. Our website describes:

In the aftermath of World War II, community canneries opened across America to reinvigorate small towns through cooperative food preservation. Today they are a convivial, cost-effective way to share and preserve the season’s harvest.

We have had two Cannery Days at Cedar Circle Farm this summer. Our first of the season was in July and was all about canning artichokes, right at the peak of their freshness and glory! The most recent September Cannery Day was fondly named Pesto Day and was all about creating three different varieties of everyone’s favorite spread, arugula-almond, mint-pistachio and five-herb. Many community members signed up to join the kitchen crew in both cooking endeavors. During the four hour event, volunteers were able to observe and participate in each step of the canning or pesto-making process. Kitchen Assistant Laurie Gelb describes, “All of the volunteers worked at the various stations, measuring ingredients, actually processing the pesto, packaging and labeling. At the end, everyone was able to sample the products and received a container of each type made to take home.” The mission of the event is three-pronged. Gelb elaborates, “The purpose of the event is to provide an opportunity to educate, to work as a group to process a larger amount of pesto than could normally be made and to share in the “harvest”.”

Some of our participants graciously wrote about their experience of Cannery Days. We think their words perfectly describe the event. Christina Tangredi enthusiastically writes,

I participated in [July’s artichoke themed-] Cannery Days…at Cedar Circle Farm and loved it! The entire experience was not only fun but was also a great way to learn more about artichokes and canning. After spending the morning in the farm kitchen prepping and canning we were provided with a beautiful lunch that was produced at Cedar Circle Farm. It included a fresh green salad with tomatoes and sweet corn accompanied by honey cardamom rolls and orange cardamom oat cookies for dessert. I will definitely be back for future events at Cedar Circle Farm.

Thanks Christina! Lisa Schweitzer also elaborates on her time at the farm for Cannery Days.

I signed up to participate in the fall Cannery Day because I’m a new gardener and hoped to gain some experience in preserving the fruits - and vegetables - of my summer labor.  The day met my expectations and provided a good deal more.  On a practical level I received some very helpful advice about maximizing the output from my small home garden, as well as some tasty new recipes for pesto, both from the farm kitchen and my co-workers. The two hours my small work group spent plucking mint leaves passed in a flash of delightful conversation and ultimately found its way into far more mint/pistachio pesto than any of us could have produced on our own.  As a new gardener, I am enjoying the particular satisfaction that comes from feeding my family produce that I’ve nurtured.  Participating in the Cannery Days enlarged that experience for me.

We have gotten a great response from the event. Well-designed by our Kitchen Manager Alison Baker, Cannery Days are a win-win for both participants and the farm. Lots of hands means a lot of product is made, both to sell in our farmstand and for participants to bring home. Schweitzer also reflects, “Participating in the Cannery Day reminded me that we can always accomplish more as a team, pooling both labor and resources, and… those accomplishments are infinitely more satisfying.”

However, as you can imagine the event is not just about the product. We love welcoming folks onto our farm! Tangredi felt that quality. “From the moment I stepped foot on the farm I felt not only welcomed but also like part of the team. It was such a nice opportunity to work with fresh ingredients that were grown on the farm as well as enjoy the company of other community members.” Because of Cedar Circle Farm’s educational and community focus, the event is also about people connecting with one another around the process of preserving our community’s seasonal harvest. Gelb states,

[Cannery Days]… is a wonderful and unique opportunity for community members to work together to produce a beautiful product, to share ideas with one another and for future opportunities to communicate with one another about food ideas! …[W]orking as a community has so many wonderful benefits for all. It is a great way to make friends, share ideas and learn from each other and to produce a quantity of product that is hard to replicate when only one or two individuals are doing the same process alone. It was fun and educational to hear about other types of pestos participants have made and how they have used pestos in their home cooking.

Cannery Days helps to facilitate connections of many types, hopefully ones which last past the sell by date on the products made.

At the end of it all, Gelb is excited about how the event played out. “…It was truly a fun filled day that went by so quickly.  There were smiles and people seemed to truly enjoy what they were doing, didn’t mind some of the repetitive tasks and left looking happy from this fun day!” As Lisa Schweizer describes, the smiles created by Cannery Days don’t vanish as volunteers drive home. Rather, the experience lingers with them. “Each meal of this delicious pesto will be accompanied by fond recollections of the lovely people that I labored with.  At the risk of appearing overly sentimental about the experience, Cannery Days feeds both the body and soul and that is nourishment we all need.”

Beautiful. Thank you all for your participation!

If this article made you hungry for some pesto, here’s some recipes for you! Traditional, classic Basil-Walnut Pesto. More unique, brightly flavored Mint Pistachio Pesto. And don’t forget, Arugula Pesto.

photos: CCF staff

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