If you are interested in learning some food-related skills, but aren’t sure where to start, please allow me to make a few suggestions.
Growing and preserving food doesn’t have to be terribly expensive.
It’s a great way to foster community.
You get to eat the results of your work.
It’s a win-win-win situation!
Seeds are relatively cheap at $1-$3 per packet. If you have a bit of soil and a way to regularly irrigate it, you can probably grow something. Here are a couple of my favorite seed sources:
It’s always a good idea to check with other local gardeners to find out what they have had success growing in your area. They may also be able to tell you about any local seed libraries or exchanges where you can get seeds free of cost.
Every state has a Cooperative Extension office that is part of a “nationwide, non-credit educational network” administered by a land-grant university, with a network of regional or county offices. The Cooperative Extension system provides a number of services, including Master Gardeners. The Master Gardeners provide free or low-cost workshops on a variety of topics from container gardening, to composting, to pest management. Find your local Extension office here: http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/
The Cooperative Extension office also administers the Master Food Preserver program. Like Master Gardeners, MFPs offer free or low-cost classes on food preservation and safety. Also, if you can get a group together who want to learn about some aspect of food preservation, you can probably find an MFP who will come teach a class at your home, church or other local gathering place. Food preservation is really fun, but it is important that you are familiar with current safety guidelines to ensure a safe and delicious product.
Not all preserving books and websites have recipes that have been tested for safety, so if you want to get a jump-start on saving the season, or you need a brush-up on current safety recommendations, here are a few reliable resources to get you started.
National Center for Home Food Preservation at http://nchfp.uga.edu/
Oregon State Extension at http://extension.oregonstate.edu/fch/food-preservation
The Ball website http://www.freshpreserving.com/ or check out any current (published after 2006) recipe book published by Ball Extension.