There is a bigger mission behind the small business that Martha Rogers is launching to sell her products.
To put it in a nutshell – or pack it in a pint jar – it is “to help people to develop the knowledge and skill to safely preserve food at home.”
“That’s why I write the column – that’s why I do the workshops,” she told the Herald in a recent interview.
Ms Rogers is one of Canada’s few qualified Master Food Preservers, a designation gained through Cornell University.
That course pushed her boundaries from the starting point of jams, jellies and chutneys into pressure canning and fermentation.
“I like science and I like research and I like to teach,” she said.
Ms Rogers has been teaching food preservation courses in the south Grey area for some time, and is looking forward to getting back to offering those programs as soon as regulations permit.
She also likes to write, and already has been sharing her abundant experience online and also on the pages of this paper.
Now Ms Rogers is launching a product line, a sampling of which is available at the Kimberley General Store and online.
She’s hoping her recently launched website for The Valley Preservery will allow her to create a community around interest in canning and associated skills.
She’s hopeful that the interest in baking and cooking and gardening for yourself over the past year will continue.
There was already a trend to more interest in local food, she said. “I think the pandemic has amplified the need and desire of people to know where their food was coming from.”
Thinking about possible shortages inspires people to pursue more self-reliance, she said.
“I see in the workshops a surprising number of young people, who are really wanting to learn these skills.”
She says she didn’t grow up with this knowledge – “I didn’t learn this in my family at all.”
But she recently found her birth family, and discovered that her mother was well-known for all of her canning and kept a well-stocked cellar of preserves.
“I practically fell over, because I'd wondered – where did this love of food and canning come from?"
“I think I got the canning genes,” she laughs.
While she appreciates and learns from the tradition of home kitchens, she also likes to keep up with science. “I just think it’s smart to use what the research is saying,” she said.
In a recent column, for example, she shared an easy tip for a baking soda wash that removes much chemical residue.
Her product line is not limited to preserves – lavender bath salts, mulling spices and hot chocolate along with themed gift boxes are also on offer.
In the last year, the government of Ontario changed regulations for home production of food on a small scale to make it less expensive and onerous, while preserving food safety.
Ms Rogers’ home kitchen has been inspected and she has taken the required food handling course, submitted water tests and learned about all other requirements such as labelling.
The easing of restrictions came when she had already been considering selling some preserves for some time.
“I just decided to do it and see how it goes,” she said.
Offerings from The Valley Preservery will change through the year – “I just like working with what nature’s providing us with now.”
Her creative imagination is still flowing, with thoughts of expanding into offering weekend workshops where people can stay in the Kimberley area and take classes together.
M.T. Fernandes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Dundalk Herald