What’s salsa got to do with Grow Appalachia? A lot–if you are encouraging your market gardeners to consider value-added products in their future! My AmericorpsVISTA assignment brought me to Wolfe County as part of the S.O.A.R. (Supporting Our Appalachian Region) Initiative to work with the Agriculture Chair, Daniel Wilson. The focus of the work by the Ag Committee has concentrated on promoting the Jackson County Regional Food Processing Center in Tyner, Kentucky. If you haven’t heard of it before, we hope to change that and I encourage all your gardeners to check it out.
The Processing Center is available to anyone who has a product they want to sell commercially or, like our 4-H group, to have the experience of large volume production and the hope of making some money for their 4-H camp scholarships. I felt the best way to know how this works and to be able to share it with our Wolfe County GA families was to create a product. So with the 4-H Extension agent, Jessica Morris, and her great group of 4-Hers, we made it through from testing a recipe and getting it approved, to creating (and getting approval) for the colorful label, sourcing jars and produce, and several hours of chopping, dicing, blanching tomatoes and cooking it all in a 60 gallon processor, we have 421 jars of the best salsa in eastern Kentucky! (Well, we think so.) Now that we have this first batch under our belt, we’re looking ahead to doing it again….once all the jars are sold! The best part will be when we can source most of what we need from local produce growers and that’s what I want to encourage my GA families to consider.
The JCRFPC is utilized by several vendors you will recognize when you shop at Krogers or linger over the Kentucky Proud or Appalachian Proud foods section. Look on the label and see where it’s produced.
The Center is an under-utilized facility that sits squarely in the heart of eastern Kentucky. As the market for locally produced goods continues to grow, we should encourage our gardeners to take advantage of this amazing resource. If you’d like more information about the Center or how to commercially produce your favorite jam, jelly or barbecue sauce, or other foods, contact me, Yvonne Scott, or the Center directly at 606-364-3436. (And if you’d like some salsa….)