The Keezletown Community Cannery

“We deliver everything but babies”. If this is not the motto of the trucking industry, perhaps it should be. Indeed, this industry keeps the world moving.

Here in the Shenandoah Valley, we locals love to complain about the number of trucks traveling on I81. What would happen, though, if the trucks stopped? Even for just a few days? Ever notice how quickly food sells out of grocery stores with the announcement of snow over the radio? It does not take long. How long could anyone last in regards to food supplies should trucks not run?

These are questions worthy of some thought. Not to cause a panic, but rather to elicit the thoughts of a ‘plan B’ should our food supply deliveries suddenly, for whatever reason, come to a halt.

Canning our own food. What? Whoever does that anymore? How in the world does anyone do it? Oh! Only the hillbillies can their own food anymore. It is not sophisticated enough for us. We have risen above that silliness and hard work. One might get sweaty and dirty. Right? Suppose that depends on ones point of view. We all still need and like to eat. Funny thing is, very few folks like to cook, much less grow their own food. That is far too much effort and hard work. Who has time for that anyway?

The Keezeltown Community Canner could help with many of these questions. I say ‘could’ because it is due to close this November—for good.

So come take a peek inside and see why it would be sad to have this community cannery close its doors.

This community cannery is a plus for folks in the area for many reasons. Come take a peek inside and see why.

Victory Gardens. Isn’t that a wonderfully invigorating name? Ever heard of them? They found their beginning during WWI to aid in the war effort. Commercial food was shipped in great quantities to feed the soldiers. Farms had been turned into battlefields. Farm workers were recruited into military service causing food to be in short supply. Our government encouraged we citizens to grow food to assist in the war effort. A school program was even initiated by the federal Bureau of Education to encourage children to enlist as “soldiers of the soil”. It was called the U.S. School Garden Army (USSGA).

The results were huge. In 1918 an approximate 1.45 million quarts of canned fruits and vegetables were generated. The canned food was shipped overseas, and the extra was put up for our own supplies here at home. Smart, effective and proactive. It was the patriotic thing to do. By the end of WWI many folks had stopped gardening though.

Image result for world war one victory garden posters
Image result for world war one victory garden posters

The onset of WWII however brought on a renewed interest in the victory gardens. Food rationing began in the spring of 1942. This caused an even greater interest in gardening. Again, it was very successful. These gardens promoted patriotism, boosted morale, and provided protection from food shortages. The year 1942 saw an estimated 15 million families gardening. By the time 1944 came around, victory gardens had grown to around 20 million. This provided over 40% of the fresh fruits and vegetables consumed in the US. This amounted to roughly 8 million tons of food. Is this not amazing?

A Victory Garden was even planted on the White House lawn by Eleanor Roosevelt!

The Keezletown Cannery began in 1942 in the basement of Keezletown School. It has been operating every since. It is one of the oldest in Virginia.

The cannery makes fast work of putting up food supplies because everything is there, except the food.
Innovative tools have been created to make the process even more efficient and fast. RT Hammer made this clever and fast apple slicing tool.
This amount of canning cannot be done in a private home. There simply is not enough space or equipment.

RT and Trudy Hammer ran the cannery for seventeen years. Sandra Hammer runs it now.
The wall behind the desk has several interesting articles about the cannery.
Sandra Hammer with my sister, Kay. Sandra has been at the cannery for fourteen years, the last three she has run it alone. She also bears all the expenses of running it.

What newbies do not know about canning, Sandra can answer. She is adept with the entire process. It is all run by steam and pressure. It is an amazing, efficient process.

This past week I canned one bushel of apples at my house alone. It took seven and one half hours! In October, my sisters and I canned three and a half bushels of apples in five hours. It is amazing the amount of food that is able to be processed at this cannery.

Home-canned lard. Neato!

This cannery serves as a way for non-profits to make money as well. Many a pint of apple butter have been processed by local churches to sell for fund raising every fall in this richly historic building.

There is so much to learn about food, physics, machinery, timing, providing for oneself , and of course canning food inside the walls of this cool shop.

Open only five months of the year, first Monday in July to the second Friday in December. The middle, end, and canning portion of our gardening season. This cannery has provided a great service to it’s community over many years. Located in the quaint town of Keezletown, VA, in the shadows of the lovely Massanutten Mountain. It is a treasure I would hate to see go. In fact, I’d love to teach canning to our next generation in it! That would be grand!

Preparing the jars for packing. They must be hot, hot, and sterile. This steamer makes one fast job of this part of the process.
The weight used to hold the door for steaming jars.
The setting is beautiful. Set in the shadows of the Massanutten Moutains.
The boiler room, where all the steam is generated.
We share lunch together around the desk. Wonderful fellowship time.

The Keezletown Cannery is a productive piece of community history in this area of Virginia. It has served it’s community members well over these many years, and still does to this day. To see it close would be a sure loss of vital history and active productivity for surrounding area folks, myself included. Growing, preserving, and being an active part of our food source is an important part of life that in these days and times should be of top interest to everyone who has to eat to live.

The cannery has served it’s community well over these many years, and still does to this day.