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Behind The Conference: Martha McMillin

McMillin-CONFThe 19th Annual Georgia Organics Conference is nearly upon us! In anticipation of the featured In Depth Workshops and Educational Sessions, we reached out to presenters for some additional information about their topic.

In this edition of Behind The Conference, we spoke with Martha McMillin, founder of Preserving Place. Martha is an avid herb gardener and provides canning demonstrations at the Peachtree Road Farmers’ Market. Martha was inspired to open Preserving Place as a way of preserving Southern food ways and traditions and supporting our local foodshed by sourcing ingredients from local farmers.

Saturday Educational Session
Track 6: Homegrown
Martha McMillin – Canning 101
Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016 from 4:00 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.
Martha will take attendees on a tour of basic hot water bath canning techniques. Read the full session description here.

Who or what inspired you to join your field and how?

My mother, my father, and our family land where I grew up in the Piedmont area of western South Carolina.

Mama is a wonderful Southern cook so I wanted to learn to cook like her and honor our family food traditions.  Daddy instilled in me a strong respect for the land, as our good land took care of my family for generations –  we farmed it, raised livestock, had a feed mill, grist mill, cotton gin, peach shed and country store.

It was a land grant from the State of South Carolina to Andrew McMillin for service in the American militia during the Revolutionary War.  It feels like a member of our family.

Being an artisan jam/pickle/condiment maker is my second career, which was inspired by my family background.

early bird

What is the toughest aspect of farming, and what helps you get through it?  

As an artisan food maker, I am not a farmer, but what we do at Preserving Place has a lot in common with farmers.

While we are not cultivating the land, we are closely attuned to crops and the seasons, as we source our ingredients for our seasonal products from local farmers. So I would say the toughest aspect of farming is risk, unpredictability, and things outside of your control and that is pretty much the same thing for our small business.

To get through it, we plan, analyze our data, closely watch our cash flow and financials and make adjustments constantly to make sure we expand and contract within our business financial needs.  That was a business answer.  From a human standpoint, you get through tough situations with an abundance of gumption and faith balanced by a clear eye.

Why are you excited to present about your topic and what are some key takeaways attendees will get from your session?

I absolutely love teaching people how to can because it turns folks from scared, intimidated and confused into happy, confident, and ready to go forth!

That means that new canners will put up their own home grown food, or pick it themselves or buy it from local farmers, because the whole point of canning is to preserve fresh local fruits and vegetables in season.  All of this is good for the earth and for farmers, it means extra income.  A farmers market shopper goes from buying a bag of green beans to cook for a dinner side dish into buying seven bags to put up into pints of pickled green beans so the volume of what farmers can sell is greatly increased.

Teaching people about how to can makes me so happy because it exposes folks to a wonderful, rewarding hobby that is nothing but goodness.  As for key takeaways attendees will get, my approach is to teach the benefits of old school canning done in a modern way.  I teach the modern FDA approved hot water bath canning method but I discuss how to can old school without commercial pectin, as that is something that is not necessary, and not using it leads to improved flavor and texture.

What about the Georgia Organics conference do you look forward to the most?

The strength, inspiration and happiness one gets from hanging out with kindred spirits who are motivated to take good care of our good Earth, right here in Georgia.

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