The Farm Learning Curve: Canning With Friends

As I slowly settle into the farming lifestyle, I’m learning to can the harvest so that I’ll be ready when my garden starts producing.

by Rachael Dupree
PHOTO: Rachael Brugger

A couple weeks ago, I received a text from a friend who works at a local organic farm: “They want to give me three boxes of tomatoes. What should I do?”

The answer was a no-brainer: “Bring them over so we can can them.”

Thus began a series of weeks marked by good friends spending time around the canner putting up the harvest—a harvest sown by other area farmers, while Mr. B and I work and wait to put in our own gardens. The most fun thing about this is that my friends and I are all new to the game. We didn’t grow up in households that canned, so we’ve taken some classes and pulled our collective knowledge to put up nearly 100 jars of green beans, tomatoes, tomato juice and spaghetti sauce. Maybe you do this every year without blinking an eye, but for us, it was quite an accomplishment.

There’s something soul-satisfying about preserving your own food, wouldn’t you agree? Not just the food aspect—though let’s not downplay the value of that—but the community that it cultivates, too. If you’re a farmer who works alongside other people, you know that some of your deepest relationships are cultivated while your hands are busy.

canningRachael Brugger

One Friday night, my girlfriends and I rather ambitiously (read: stupidly) decided to start canning two bushels worth of green beans, starting at 6 p.m. Yeah, we were a little in over our heads. But we got to sit and chat while snapping beans and share in that first training-wheels-removed use of a pressure canner. Even if some of those beans ended up in the freezer because we got too tired to continue canning, I feel like I now share a deeper connection with those ladies—a kindred spiritedness rooted in green beans.

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One of the hardest things for me about being new farmers is that Mr. B and I have a lot of big dreams swirling in our minds, but we’re limited in the time and resources to accomplish those things. When it comes down to it, I just want to start growing food. But the reality of our situation is that we need to put in the labor and practice some patience before it can happen. Fortunately, even though our own gardens aren’t producing quite yet, we’re surrounded by a community of people who are helping cultivate the spirit of farming.

I look forward to this winter, when I get to taste the first chilis and soups and green bean casseroles from the food put up by us and our friends. It will be so much more than cooking up a nourishing meal: It will be a reminder of the land that sustains us and the hands that support us as we venture into this wild world of farming.

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