Georgia Magazine - July 2012 - (Page 36)

Communities that can Neighbors unite to preserve the tradition of collective food processing BY DEBORAH GEERING JUPITER IMAGES M uch of the year, you can find the Hon. O. Wayne Ellerbee working in his Valdosta law office or presiding over Lowndes County Juvenile Court. But come summertime, you’re just as likely to find him at the Lowndes Food Processing Center, known commonly as the Canning Plant, where the judge trades in his gavel for a big spoon and turns his attention toward vegetable soup, canned peas and mayhaw jelly. Across the state in Blairsville, Reba Sosebee usually spends much of her summer at the Union County Cannery, putting up jar after jar of homegrown vegetables, sauces, soups and stews. She remembers going as a small child with her parents and watching in fascination as apples from their farm were turned into applesauce packed into shiny cans. Now her daughters and granddaughters help her. “We have a ball there. Everybody works together, and if one gets caught up, they come and help somebody else,” she says. “And we don’t buy a whole lot of groceries in the winter.” Ellerbee and Sosebee are part of a lively canning culture that’s been cherished across Georgia since the Great Depression. Community canning centers encourage neighbors to work together for a common cause that is part home economics, part culinary art, part education and part hobby. It’s a part of Southern history too. For Ellerbee, it’s hard work that’s extremely rewarding. JAMES CORBETT Above: A bounty of summertime vegetables can be “put up” for use throughout the year. Left: An agricultural education class at the Lowndes Food Processing Center helps Terry Hunt, left, prepare apples for applesauce. “It’s a therapy,” he says. “It wouldn’t matter to me if I gave everything away the day I made it. It’s the joy of doing it, the fun of putting it together. It’s standing there hot and no air conditioning and hoping you get through it. But you don’t have a care in the world when you’re doing it. And you have something to show for it when you’re done.” ‘We have a ball [at the cannery]. Everybody works together, and if one gets caught up, they come and help somebody else.’ –Reba Sosebee, Blairsville It’s efficient too. Large-scale equipment at the canning centers turns what would be a grueling home task into a fairly speedy process. “You could literally put up in a morning or a day what a really big family could eat in an entire year,” says James Corbett, an agriculture education teacher who supervises the More online at 2,000-square-foot Lowndes Canning Plant during its summer hours of operation. “And you leave the mess here. When they’re gone, we roll out a 2-inch fire hose and hose the whole thing down. You can’t do that at home.” But now, even as canning is soaring in popularity once again, the state’s network of food preservation plants are endangered. That’s because many of the facilities are getting too old to function well, and money is tight for building new ones. An educational mission According to the book “Two Hundred Years of Agricultural Education in Georgia” by John Taylor Wheeler, the first community food processing center in Georgia was built in 1926 in Franklin County, with the goal of teaching farming families the skills needed to preserve food. Two more followed that year, in Hart and Gwinnett counties. By 1932 there were 87 canning plants around the state, and by 1942, 383 plants provided families with the means to preserve a total of 10.5 million cans of food. The first plants were funded enGEORGIA MAGAZINE 36

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia Magazine - July 2012

Georgia Magazine - July 2012
Liberty Notes
Picture This?
Georgia News
Calendar of Events
Georgia’s Energy Outlook
Unveiling a Healthier Georgia
A Soldier’s Wish
Around Georgia
My Georgia
Georgia Gardens
Georgia Cooks

Georgia Magazine - July 2012