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In this segment, KSMU's Jennifer Moore looks at how the old art of canning food is a skill much sought-after by today's younger generation.
Music up: "Life Is Just A Bowl of Cherries"
I’m Jennifer Moore. This week, as part of our Sense of Community series, we’re delving into how the economic recession is changing the lives of everyday folks here in the Ozarks.
At the Star Appliance repair shop on Grant in Springfield, owner Cindy Williamson says even though it’s not yet the season for canning food, she’s seeing an increase in the number of customers seeking to have their canning equipment repaired.
She says several people have brought in very old canners to see if they are still useable.
Coincidentally, just as she was telling me about it, a customer who happened to fit that bill walked through the door. Lola Cary of Springfield said she hasn’t canned food in decades, but the rising food costs, as well as her desire to eat healthier, have inspired her to dust off her old canners.
Cary says she intends to teach her granddaughter how to can food this summer. And she’s apparently not alone. Ozarks residents, for a variety of reasons, are becoming more interested in both growing and preserving their own food.
Master Gardener Shelley Vaugine teaches gardening workshops and helps spearhead Springfield’s 1000 Gardens program. She says she’s had a lot of younger people ask her how to can food.
That, she says, has presented a dilemma: with all the modern-day reliance on grocery stores and fast food, there’s a shortage of people who actually have those basic survival skills of growing and canning food.
But one person who does have those skills is Pat Summer of Springfield. She grew up during the Great Depression.
As a child, her little hands pulled hundreds of weeds and harvested year after year’s worth of fresh vegetables. She was one of eight children.
Summer was surprised to hear earlier this year that several young people in Springfield would like her to teach them how to can food. She says it never occurred to her that someone would need her help, but she’s pleased to pass on her skills nonetheless.
In her kitchen, she has several jars sitting on the countertop.
Summer single-handedly grows the vast majority of her own fruits, vegetables and herbs. She also attributes these harvesting skills to her childhood.
But not everyone is quick to associate today’s economic hardships and money-saving trends with those the nation saw in the 1930s.
That’s Jim Giglio, professor emeritus of history at Missouri State University. He says that even today’s practice of saving money isn’t necessarily a similarity to the Great Depression…because back then, people didn’t even have money to save.
Giglio says even though people are more cautious in how they spend their money today, he still sees more differences between the two eras than he does similarities.
And 80-year-old Pat Summer would not argue with that. She remembers her father going to work as a landscape artist on the WPA, one of President Roosevelt’s incentives to get Americans working again. Still, she says she can’t wait to teach younger folks how to use a canner.
In a day when the younger generation tends to place importance on iPods, Blackberries and cell phones—things she sees as complicated and unnecessary—she says it’s nice to be valued…and, well…needed.
And if there is a silver lining to the recession, some say the bringing together of two very different generations might just be it.
For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Moore.Music Up: “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”