HOMEGROWN

Celebrate the culture of agriculture & share skills (Growing! Cooking! Eating!)

When I had recently retired, I wanted something to do that would help women with low incomes to feed their families with good food for the least amount of money possible.  My first try was to buy plots in our community garden for low income women to grow their own.  It was a disastrous failure.  I had to rethink how to proceed.  It would seem that the younger generations of today had not grown up with a tradition of gardening.  I would have to start from square one and I was not sure I wanted to expend that much time and energy on something that would take a lot of both.

I decided that I would get some of my gardening friends to pool our experience and mentor those who would like to start putting food in jars.  We all had pressure canners that sat idle for about 300 days of the year, so why not lend them to others?  It seemed like a good idea, but a few worried about damage or theft of equipment that cost hundreds of dollars and were treasured by their owners.

 We finally decided we each would choose one woman we knew well and mentor her.  The criteria for mentoring was that she wanted to learn, she had low income (single parents were preferred), she had the time to learn and she was a trusted friend of one of us.  We wanted to keep our options open and decided if some equipment went missing or was damaged, we would each ante up part of the price of replacement.  That pleased those who were a little reticent to participate.

We scoured local thrift stores, Flea Markets and yard sales for canning jars.  We also took donations from women who no longer canned and those whose relatives had passed on.  We collected hundreds of jars.  We had a work party to clean them all and put them in one dozen batches, according to size.  We gave out one dozen quarts, along with lids and one dozen pints, with lids to the woman had chosen to mentor.  Any other expenses for broken jars or lost lids, are the responsibility of the teacher and proved to be very little.

We donated produce from our gardens and garnered more from our friends and members of our local churches.  We had more than enough.  I bought a case of peaches for my student and others did the same for other students.  As they filled their jars, we gave them more.  I can not say our efforts were a raging success, because they were not.  Several women decided it was too much work and they turned in their jars.  While it was a loss, the majority were a success.  The women beamed as they put their fruit/veggies in the jars and then lined them up to enjoy the shapes and colors.

We were proud also.  We had passed down a craft that was being lost.  We will continue, one woman at a time.  It's the best way.  It is the only way.  We learned from our grandmas and moms.  We are the next best thing.  Just imagine how many women could be taught what their Moms did not teach them about canning if each of us passed on our knowledge about putting up the bounty of our gardens?

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Comment by Jennifer on August 26, 2014 at 1:31pm

This is amazing. What a great impact on your mentees' lives—and on your own! And this is exactly what HOMEGROWN is all about (with dudes getting in on the action, too!): "We learned from our grandmas and moms.  We are the next best thing.  Just imagine how many women could be taught what their Moms did not teach them about canning if each of us passed on our knowledge about putting up the bounty of our gardens?" Here, here!

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