Embracing the Bountiful Harvest and Sustainable Food Preservation in Eastern Kentucky

In the hills of Eastern Kentucky, a new wave of farmer families is emerging, along with a sustainable approach to agriculture. With peak harvest season upon us, it’s time to celebrate the abundance of nature’s gifts while exploring food preservation techniques.

The Joy of Peak Harvest
As the summer sun reaches its zenith, fall is whispering around the corner to us. The nights are cooling down, foggy mornings are the norm, the black walnuts leaves are turning yellow and there is a definite change in the earths energy and the colors she wears on a daily basis. Even the moon is signaling that harvest is near, with a Blue Moon at the end of the month and the Harvest Moon just waiting on September to appear. The harvest is at its peak. Eastern Kentucky’s fertile lands have yielded an abundance of fresh produce this season for the families involved in our gardening project. From vibrant heirloom tomatoes and sweet corn to crisp cucumbers, green beans and fragrant herbs, our gardens are brimming with nutritious delights. Our farmers are embracing this peak harvest season with open arms, celebrating the connection between the earth and our plates as we nourish our bodies with healthier foods and preserve the delicate balance of our local ecosystems.

Sustainable Food Preservation
Preserving the peak harvest is a traditional practice here in Appalachia, tying together the past and future generations of families ensuring we can enjoy the fruits of our labor throughout the year. The Owsley County Farm to School Program in Eastern Kentucky has modern farmers who are employing a variety of sustainable food preservation techniques. Canning is just one method we are utilizing to extend the shelf life of our bountiful harvest. By reducing food waste and embracing these age-old preservation techniques, we savor the flavors of summer long after the leaves have fallen. Our farm to school project partnered with our local farmers market to offer a preservation workshop for canning green beans and

canned home-grown tomato juice

quarts of home canned tomato juice

tomatoes along with freezing corn for winter supplies.

Canning and Dehydrating Beans
Young families worked together to break their beans and learn safe preservation methods to can them using a pressure canner for the families who brought in their garden’s bounty. Each participant received a new set of mason jars to use for another canning session.

Onn to the next canning adventure!

Dehydration techniques were discussed and put into practice for the beans as well. Participants learned how to use several methods to make shuck beans including: a dehydrator, the age-old tradition of stringing beans, and how to properly sundry the beans so none go to waste. Our participants went home with links to safe canning recipes and how to sites, links for pressure canner replacement parts (since some had pressure canners given to them from family members) and a recommendation to have their gauges checked each year by the local extension service agent.

Freezing Corn
Corn was featured as a good example of how to preserve by freezing since it was a part of the seeds that the gardening group received and grew. Participants leaned to blanch and freeze corn on the cob, cut the corn off for cream style, and how to properly freeze the corn.

Heart Healthy Recipes From Our Garden
During our food preservation workshop, methods to make eating our canned food healthier were discussed and put into practice during our workshop. We discussed the required salt requirements for beans and tomatoes (since several of our participants have a bountiful tomato harvest) and way to reduce the salt impact when preparing the food – like rinsing the contents of home cans or store-bought cans prior to cooking, adding herbs and other flavoring so we don’t notice using less salt in our ready to eat foods. A heart healthy recipe for corn salad using fresh herbs as a healthy alternative to salt was also prepared by the group and shared with the farmers market customers. You may want to try our recipe featured at the end of the article….

Our participants and farmers market customers went home with easy-to-follow recommendations for increasing heart healthy food consumption using what they already have in their pantry or simple shopping changes that the participants agreed were very doable for them on a daily basis – something so simple as switching the kind of oil used when cooking.

Community Engagement
The young modern farmer movement is more than just a personal lifestyle choice; it’s a community-driven endeavor. Through community partnerships, workshops, farmers’ markets, and community gardens, we are sharing our knowledge of sustainable food preservation techniques with family groups of all ages. Our participants cover a wide range of ages, from a newly married young couple, to singles, to families with young children, to the senior community members. By empowering others to adopt these practices, we promote self-sufficiency, nutritious meals and we are strengthening the bond between individuals and the land, all the while combating the food desert our community is facing.

The peak harvest season becomes an opportunity to celebrate the interconnectedness of our lives with nature and our community. By embracing sustainable food preservation techniques with our community and our Farm to School Participants, we can savor the taste of summer year-round while fostering a culture that values the preservation of our culture, the environment and the nourishment of our families.

Summer Corn Salad

Summer Corn Salad

Farmers Market Corn Salad
4 ears of corn, cooked and cut off the cob
1-2 cups of Tommy toe tomatoes
8oz of fresh cheese
10 fresh basil leaves cut into ribbons
1 medium pepper of your choice
1/2 t of black pepper

1/4 c Lemmon juice
1/4 c olive oil

Can be served as recipe alone for a side or add over romaine lettuce and add cooked chicken breast pieces for a complete meal.

Hope you enjoy!