Farm to Aisle 2
By: Devon Kohler
I fully enjoyed my conversation with Monica Fletcher over at Acorn Canning Company in Marshfield. The shop has a cute small town seaside feel and a really simple yet effective business model, “if you bring it, we will can it.” Literally, all summer long local farmers would stop by with barrels of this, bushels of that and Monica would preserve it. She stocked the shelves with jellies, jams, salsa, tomato sauces, and pickled this and that, but most of that was bought within weeks. She even utilized Rise and Shine ginger for a ginger lemon marmalade. Now during the slow canning months she is focused on daily comfort specials that include soups, stews, pies, breads, deserts, and a myriad of other things to add to the remaining jellies, chili sauce, and pickled peppers. I sampled some super spicy vinegar, in which was floating local chili peppers of various shapes and colors, and also the Irish soda bread, which was amazing!
Apparently, if she had the time Monica could have canned two or three times the amount that she actually did. Maybe there would still be some local tomatoes for me to buy had this happened, but her small business can not support that kind of volume. Her empty shelves and summer phone calls requesting canning advise prove that there is obviously a local demand for preserved produce. When I asked her about potential wholesale opportunities she echoed Rise And Shine’s concerns regarding state regulations that have certain facility requirements that are cost prohibitive for her (she specifically cited a $10,000 grease trap).
So, there are definitely volume and regulation challenges to overcome if we want to make preserved local produce more mainstream, but there also is the challenge of connecting the farms with the preserver. I mentioned to Monica that C.N. Smith Farm had an over abundance of butternut squash that it could not find a home for this fall. If C.N. Smith had brought the squash to Acorn Canning, Monica could have preserved it and we all could have used it in our holiday meal preparations.
As far as Monica knows, she is the only canning company on the south shore. And she was recently visited by a salesman pedaling flash frozen herbs, but from California. What about a freezing “local” produce company? It just seems to me that it would be much easier to market local produce to local grocery stores if we took the perishable factor out of the equation. I am still working on getting in touch with The Gleanery in Putney Vermont, which is a restaurant that specializes in preserving and using local produce. Maybe they will have some insight that will be helpful.
Devon Kohler graduated with a psychology degree from Harvard University and is now a mom of three, residing in Duxbury, MA. Being a novice gardener herself, she is passionate about local food and incorporating it into healthy sustainable cooking and eating for her family and the community at large.
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