I’m now an extremely proud Master Food Preserver! Our eight-week course through Lane County OSU Extension for volunteer certification in Family Food Education/Master Food Preservation finished up today. I haven’t been so thrilled to take part in anything for a long time; I’ve lived in Eugene for three years but not until this program have I felt that I’m a real Oregonian. So like all those newly granted citizenship, I’m going to brag about it!
I am so honored to be a part of this group of great volunteers. We hail from rural areas and towns in the Mid- and South-Willamette Valley. Several local farmers were in the class, and we also had writers, educators, cooks and bakers, administrative folks, homemakers, and social service professionals. Many of us volunteer at places ranging from the farmer’s market to the fire department to shelters for homeless kids, and a big group of us (including yours truly!) will continue on next week to be trained to volunteer for the Food Pantry Project, helping educate consumers at the food banks in our towns. As you can see, our outreach into our communities is wide and varied, indeed. Just to give you a sense of some of our interests, just look at some of the final presentation topics:
- fava beans as green manure
- using up mature green beans and all that zucchini
- homemade wheat gluten
- grinding your own flour of different types of wheat
- wild fermentation of kombucha and hibiscus elixirs
- Congonese preservation of cassava root
- GMOs and oils
- making biscuits
- how to fillet and quick-smoke salmon
- harvesting rhubarb
As I mentioned earlier, ours was last class taught by Nellie Oehler before her retirement after over 25 years running the program. If there’s one thing I can recognize after being in school for most of my adult life, it’s when a class is being taught by a master, and I feel so fortunate I got to see her in action. It looks like the OSU Extension budget will be cut by a half-million dollars next year, so the program’s face may be changing drastically. All I can say is that I’ll do everything I can to spread the word about what we’ve learned and what we can teach others as educator volunteers, so the folks who make budgetary decisions know what a huge impact this program has in Eugene, Lane County, and surrounding counties in the Willamette Valley.
I’ll be out there in public this summer with others in the program, staffing exhibits and doing demos at our many local festivals and fairs and markets. We’ll be at the Lane County Fair and out there each week at Saturday Market and the new farmer’s market in Springfield, and we’ll be manning the Oregon-wide Food Preservation Hotline from mid-June until late-October. If you have a chance, please stop by and ask us your questions about food safety or preservation, or even how to cook something you’ve picked up at the market. Chances are someone will have tried everything and will be willing to share! We’d also deeply appreciate it if you could let us know how we’ve made an impact on you through the programs at OSU Extension, whether it’s identifying a weed you brought in to the Master Gardeners or answering your question about canning zucchini in pineapple juice at Lowell Blackberry Days. We’d love your feedback and hope that the program can continue to be such an integral part of life in the Willamette Valley.