Discover You Can Takes off this Summer

      Posted On: July 13, 2011

by Elizabeth Comiskey

This spring, the Farmers Market Coalition teamed up with Jarden Home Brands, makers of Ball® Brand Fresh Preserving Products, in Discover You Can, a summer canning education program.  Fifty selected farmers markets received stipends, canning supplies, and distribution materials in May.  Now these 50 markets are in the middle of implementing programs to promote awareness of the benefits of canning and provide tools to support education  programs that illustrate the three simple steps of safe home canning processes.
“The exciting aspect of this program is that it offers farmers markets an opportunity to teach valuable skills in their community while encouraging sales of fresh produce from local farmers” says Stacy Miller of the Farmers Market Coalition. “Discover You Can equips markets with the tools, ideas, and funds to bring canning to life through their own creativity and market needs.”
So far, markets have creatively captured the spring and early summer seasons in a jar through canning demonstrations of berries, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, fennel, carrots, cabbage, ramps, radishes, and more.  “Our first demo was The Great Strawberry CRUSH, held on May 21 (the height of strawberry season in our neck of the woods).  Our goal was to show customers how easy and quick it is to make freezer jam, and figured what better way to do this than to recruit kids as berry smushers/jam makers?  It was great fun, and we had kids standing in line (along with their parents!) to be the next jam maker,” explains Kathy Kildea of the Charlottesville City Market in Virgina, who shared a great video of the event.
Many of the market organizers are new to canning, Frankie Rowland of Community Markets in New York City says, “All of us in the office have learned to preserve food, and to our delight we have been able to apply some creativity to the recipes with such items as Fresh Mint-Infused Strawberry Compote and Golden Ring Spicy Dill Pickles.”  They are also bringing their new techniques to the market and have made some surprising observations, “I believe that one of the most significant (and unexpected) things working in our favor is that we have Scott, our Communications Specialist, conducting demonstrations. There has been a noticeable interest in canning among male observers; Scott’s amiable nature and consistent focus on letting people know that it’s an easy process has encouraged some men to give it a try.”
Discover You Can℠ has also acted as the impetus behind some innovative partnerships.  The Downtown Overland Park Farmers’ Market in Missouri has negotiated end aisle displays dedicated to Ball canning in 14 TruValue hardware stores in the Kansas City Metro area.  The marketing and event director, Deborah Crane, will be giving demo’s at three of their biggest stores, discussing canning on the biggest local call-in radio show with an average listener base of 12,000, and demonstrating canning at FarmAid.  In addition, TruValue is running a large ad in the biggest newspaper, KC Star, dedicated to canning at the farmers market which will include the market schedule.  The ad will provide valuable marketing for the Overland Park Farmers’ Market and a win-win for all.
Peachtree Road Farmers Market in Atlanta partnered with James Beard Award-winning Chef Steven Satterfield and the Lee Brothers for their canning presentation at the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival.  They have also hosted several canning demonstrations, including canning demo by Chef Linton Hopkins, who used the Ball equipment to show attendees how to can at home. Hopkins focused on pickling and demonstrated to more than 300 people safe processing techniques for many varieties of vegetables.  A video of Hopkins’ demonstration is featured online.
After the canning demonstrations, farmers from many of the markets have reported increased sales of related products.  Other markets have taken advantage of the ‘Can This’ stickers, placing them on produce labels, posters, and especially volunteers.  Participating Farmers Markets nationwide will be teaming up with community members for special Discover You Can℠ events and activities through Labor Day.  Get ready for tomato salsa, peach chutney, and dilly beans!