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NMSU Master Food Preservation program is up and running

Many consumers have become concerned with chemical preservatives in processed foods. They are turning to locally grown food to alleviate their concerns. With the increase in the availability of locally grown food through growers? markets, many people are also returning to the tradition of canning.


Man and women canning food with women watching
Cindy Davies, county director of NMSU Cooperative Extension Service in Bernalillo County, center, watches Mark Genualdi, left, and Karen Raistrick fill jars with vegetable soup while they pressure-can the food for future use. Genualdi and Raistrick are among the first volunteers to enter the Bernalillo County Master Food Preservation program taught by Davies. (NMSU Photo by Jane Moorman)

New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service county family and consumer sciences agents offer opportunities for people to take research-based food preservation classes where they learn safe food preservation methods.

Cindy Davies, NMSU?s Bernalillo County program director, has had more than 2,000 participants in her food preservation classes over the past nine years.

?People are reviving the traditional way of preserving fresh grown food,? Davies said. ?There is usually a waiting list to take the food preservation classes. Plus, we are having more requests for information on how to can food.?

When faced with more requests for information than an Extension agent can personally handle, the answer has been to develop a volunteer-based master program. One such program is the master gardener program, in which volunteers help county agriculture agents address urban horticulture questions.

Davies, Otero County Extension home economist Kelly Knight, and other family and consumer science agents in New Mexico are reviving the master food preservation program to educate volunteers to help the growing number of people wanting to safely preserve food at home.

?The master food preservation program is really more for the home economist than anything,? Davies said. ?It allows them to have a volunteer base to help with all the classes and to get the research-based information about food preservation out to the public.?

The pilot class for the New Mexico Master Food Preservation Program has just completed.

?We have 12 volunteers ready to help,? Davies said. ?They will contribute 20 to 30 hours of their time by helping with my 10 lab classes this summer, and by being at growers? markets to share information on safe and proper ways to can and preserve food.?

She added that each county?s home economist determine the number of hours their master food preservers will contribute.

The training included using the ?So Easy to Preserve? book and demonstration DVDs developed by the University of Georgia Extension Service through the National Center for Home Food Preservation, as well as NMSU food preservation publications.

Davies, Knight and Nancy Flores, NMSU Extension food technology specialist, developed the New Mexico curriculum.

After taking six four-hour classes on freezing and drying food; water-bath canning of jams and jellies, salsas, pickles, tomatoes and fruits; and pressure-canning vegetables, which included hands-on practice in the kitchen and passing a certification test, the first group of Master Food Preservers are excited to be involved in the program.

All had taken food-preservation classes from Davies previously, and have been canning a variety of foods, including jams and jellies, for many years.

?I?ve been canning since I was 8 years old, when I helped my grandmother,? said Ronda Zaragoza. ?I?m already answering neighbors? canning questions, so this will just extend something I love doing.?

?I felt with my experience, I should take the Master classes to get some type of certification,? said Muffin Menicucci. ?I?ve helped Cindy with her classes. Her classes address every walk of life and provide a lot of nutrition information.?

?I?m very excited about doing the volunteer work,? said Karen Raistrick. ?It?s going to be fun helping others learn something that I enjoy.?