Vegetables get second life at Thomson High School Cannery


THOMSON, Ga. (WJBF) – Gardeners listen up! There’s a place where you can harvest vegetables at in the summertime. And the cost is just a few dimes and the investment into a child’s education.

Canning is truly a lost art. The process of preserving food through this method dates back to as early as the 1700s. Fast forward to now and students and teachers in Thomson are spending summers preserving more than just vegetables.

Thomson High School Agricultural Teacher Rick DuBose is leading this endeavor.

“If we were ever to have a major disaster, people would be scrambling. These people doing these things with cans, they would be set to go for at least a year,” DuBose said explaining the benefits of canning.

NewsChannel 6 caught up with DuBose and his students at the Thomson High School Cannery, located on White Oak Road, Wednesday morning.  We found dozens of tomatoes starting the canning process through blanching.

Tomatoes are peeled, cored, diced, cooked and canned where inside kettles they are cooked again.

“Water is a big key and a crucial component and a big part of what we do because everything runs off of steam,” said DuBose, who has been running the program for more than a decade. “The steam heats the kettles, heats the food and cooks the cans whether in the pressure cooker or the hot water bath.”

DuBose works with FFA students through the canning process during summer break.  Rising Junior Erica Lewis said she has put in a lot of work after learning what needs to be done.

“Cutting the tomatoes is probably the worse part. We blanch them and they come out hot and they’re mushy. You have to cut them and boil them, but it becomes really fun,” she said.

Just about every vegetable is canned except corn. DuBose said the cannery does not can meats because that would require USDA inspection. Food safety rules are still followed though through the use of heat and sanitizing everything.

“We make sure we clean tables, utensils, the cookers, everything that we use, the cans,” he said. “Those have to be sanitized because if you get bacteria in the cans people eat that food and they get sick then you have a mess on your hands. It’s happened at large companies. They’ve had to have recalls and stuff because of bacteria and food safety.”

Once heat is trapped inside the can, a lid is placed on top, which cost the community about 60 cents. And what could have been lost produce, can now be stored on the shelves for as long as two years.

“There’s no chemicals,” Lewis said. “It’s just fresh. It’s like I did this and now I can taste it.”

DuBose also told us no salt is added.  Once the customer opens the can, seasonings can be added at that point.

The cannery closes once school opens.  But DuBose said it will reopen in the spring and next summer because that is when many people harvest.

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