Can-do: Grange shows how to preserve nature's bounty
With a can-do attitude and an interest in preserving the bounty of the harvest, a group gathered Saturday at the historic Greenfield Hill Grange to learn about canning and preserving homegrown fruits and vegetables.
The program was one of a series planned in conjunction with the grange's 120th anniversary this year.
Steven Golias, a graduate of the Culinary Institute and a grange member, led the two-hour session, which was attended by about 15 people. They took notes as he described the process of canning, and sampled some of the preserves and pickles Golias prepared in the grange kitchen.
"The Greenfield Hill Grange chapter was established in 1893," said Beth Bradley, the grange vice president, "though this actual structure wasn't completed until 1897. It was a club for area farmers, for the sharing of growing techniques and community services. Essentially everything that everyone is now doing with local sustainability was done then -- they were ahead of their time."
Bradley explained that the canning demonstration, besides providing community outreach, was a way to help promote the Greenfield Hill Grange's other agricultural activities. The grange is funded by private donations raised through membership. The building is also rented out for private functions.
"The grange, which had a peak membership of 400 farmers at one time, had fallen out of style by the 1920s," Bradley said. "The economy changed from locally grown food to mass produced industrial scale production, driving local farms out of business. Post-World War II suburbanization was also a major factor. Today, there are just 27 members and one farm in Fairfield, Greenfield Farm."
The tide has been changing, however, according to Bradley. "Over the last five years, people are rediscovering local farms and sustainability," she said. "One reason is because of the allergies children have developed from mass-produced food. Families are seeking healthier choices and to know what's in their food. Our trend in town appears to be a shift to community gardens. The grange will be here to provide support to community initiatives like Drew Park community garden, Fairfield Woods Branch Library, Wakeman Town Farm (in Westport) and Aspetuck Land Trust."
The canning demonstration kicked off new grange programming, which will include gardening workshops, seed saving, composting and medicinal herb preparation. On Sept. 14, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Greenfield Hill Grange will host its annual Agricultural Fair, which was initiated in 1899, according to Bradley. "It will offer judging of fruits and vegetables, country crafts, flowers, a bake sale, baking contest, saving seeds lecture, backyard chicken raising talk, live music, pony rides and kids' games. It's an old-time country fair."
Bradley concluded, "This is our farmers' club. How do we make it work for this century is our challenge."
For canning instructions and related recipes, "like" the Greenfield Hill Grange No. 133 Fairfield CT 06824 on Facebook, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.