Join us October 29th for our first skill building workshop at the Duke Campus Farm. If you’d like to attend, please sign up here. Keep reading to learn more about how Ali of This & That Jam came to love preserving food and why it’s so important.
When Ben and I moved from Brooklyn to North Carolina we realized we had the opportunity to re-work our business model and really take a look at our goals not just as entrepreneurs, but as human beings. We’re both very interested in social change, Ben focused on the anthropology of food in school, my research focused on language acquisition in low-income populations. We both have a passion for good food and we really love to create things together- we cook, we bake and of course, we make jam. (When Ben first met me I offered him some of my cat-shaped crackers and he didn’t run… and I feel like I gave him a pretty obvious indication of my level of crazy on that one). Ben had been selling jam in his spare time at the Brooklyn Flea and really enjoying the production and recipe development side of things, but felt like if he was going to have his own business selling a product wasn’t enough. I was working at a bakery, making pies in an open kitchen and loving every second of it, but was happiest when I got to share skills with other people. So when we got down to North Carolina, we talked a lot about how selling jam could serve the greater good.
There’s been a lot of talk of reform in this country, and one of the big topics is food reform. School lunches, obesity, government subsidies, local food systems and GM products are hot topics in the news every single day. One thing we realized is that the reason our jams have had such great success is that no one really makes their own jams anymore. It used to be common practice to put away our overabundance of food for the winter when we wouldn’t have tomatoes and peaches and berries. Now we can just go to the store and buy a rock-hard peach in the middle of winter. Canning used to be a part of everyday life, and now people view it as complicated and foreign. There is a movement today to source food locally, join CSAs, plant our own gardens and stop depending so much on the grocery store. But what do we do with all of this produce once we have it? So what if I have ten pounds of onions, what am I going to do with all those onions? When Ben and I started talking about how we could re-work our business it came down to the decision to teach people to do exactly what we’re doing- make great jam!
Our hope is to bring back the simple skill of canning. It’s cheap, can be done with equipment you already have at home, and it’s a great way to spend time with your family and friends. Ben and I have spent so many good times going out to farms, farmer’s markets, random fruit trees and our own garden to find things to can. Then we prep the fruits and veggies, talk about the different flavors and spices we can incorporate in our jams, read recipes and take turns stirring the pot. Believe it or not, people used to do this all the time! It’s not just for crunchy hippies or foodies. It’s a life skill. We really wanted to make these classes accessible to everyone, so we decided we’d offer it regardless of ability to pay. Some of our workshops are offered for free in partnership with organizations that help at-risk populations. Others, like the one we’re offering at Duke Campus Farm, are offered at a low-cost or pay-what-you-can.
We’re very excited to be working with Duke Campus Farm on our very first workshop. Emily and company have created such an amazing space and have a huge wealth of knowledge from their experiences. Like us, they have learned a lot from their successes and failures. These aren’t skills we all grew up with, they’re things we’ve pieced together from our collective experiences, books, classes and blogs. We’re trying to re-build a part of our culture that got a little lost along the way, but is seeing a real revival in the past few years. Both Duke Campus Farm and This & That Jam are about building community and a positive learning environment and finding the answers to any questions you might have. I think this is going to be a fantastic class and I’m really looking forward to seeing who turns up and what kind of experiences and backgrounds people bring to the table.
Many thanks to Emily and the good people at DCF for hosting us and taking the time to help us with the workshop. For more information about This & That Jam and our workshops you can visit our website or check out our facebook or twitter.
Canning is a great skill that many more people should acquire. People definitely should grow some of their own food, which will be much healthier and free of pesticides.