By RODNEY D. BOAM
The Area Canning Center at 61 E.400 S. is in full swing.
It may also be one of the biggest tourist draws to the county during the months of August to the end of October. Sid Olson, the facility scheduler, said. They probably have about a thousand people a season come in to can food
“Many of the patrons are from outside of the county,” she said. “We have people come from New York, California, Alaska and quite a few from the Salt Lake City area.”
Richard Larsen, 69, a Preston native, came from West Bountiful, Utah, during September to can homegrown green beans and peaches. Larsen has been coming to the Preston cannery since he was five years old he said.
He and his wife Debra skillfully peeled the skin off the peaches, split, pulled the pit out and stuffed them in to cans.
“My mother was the supervisor over the cannery when it in the basement of the Oneida Stake Academy,” he said over the noise of the steam blast of pressure cookers. “They moved it to this location after my mission. I remember they purchased the building from a guy name Keith.”
He said he helped them move into the existing building around 1968.
Larsen said the cannery was established as part of the war effort during WWII. He worked at the facility during his high school years after school and weekends.
“These cannery’s were all over the country at one time, now this is the only one left,” he said. “It was a lot busier then. I remember starting at 6:30 in the morning and not getting done until 2 a.m. the next morning on some days. It was full of people six days a week.”
When Larsen was pealing peaches and stuffing them in to cans there were probably a half a dozen other people working in the building. Another three people just finished had and boxed up their goods and were taking it out to their vehicle.
“They don’t can like they used to,” he said.
People are canning all kinds of things, said Sid Olsen, the center’s scheduler.
On the Tuesday the Larsen’s were doing their produce others were canning ham and beans, bean dip, hamburger soup and bread pudding among the scheduled items.
Olsen, who’s husband Kevin, manages the cannery, said one of the big things people are canning is money. They are putting money in smaller cans then can the smaller cans inside their larger cans of rice.
Olson said she might can some of the oddest of the food that comes through the cannery.
“I can different kinds of soups. I’ve canned rhubarb chili and cherry chili,” she said. “I know it’s a little off the wall, but we give big cases to our six kids and their families every year at Christmas time and they love it.”
She also said, there are a lot people who still can fish and wild game meat.
Steve and Sara Smith both work part-time at the center. Sara was filling 180 cans with water for canning chicken for the day’s work.
They had 300 pounds of chicken to can that day.
“People usually buy their chicken from Stokes or Theurer’s ,” Steve said. “A lot of what people can they get locally.”
Smith said he heard the place was one three self-service canners still in use. Most everything else is owned big companies now days.
County Commissioner Dirk Bowles said the commission recognizes what a good thing the cannery is for the area.
In about 2006, the commissioners wanted the cannery to be more self-sustaining. It was a drain on the county budget. Commissioner Mick Atkinson wanted to see the cannery succeed, but he wanted to keep the county from funding it with tax dollars.
They asked Brett and Jody Rasmussen of Riverdale to head the cause. They began charging a user’s fee and to have users pay for the full cost of the cans.
“It worked,” Bowles said. “It’s pretty well self-sufficient without a drain on the budget. The county still helps on occasion with an equipment malfunction repair or other unexpected expense.”
It’s changed a little since the Rasmussen’s reformed the fee structure. Today the fee for one day is $10 and for the season it is $20 plus the cost of the cans.
The commissioner said there are people like Mike Lower who gave them a tank they needed for the salvage price and Rod Jones and others have helped with needed minor repair work.
“We want the people to know. The county wants to see the cannery succeed, it is good asset in our community.” Bowles said.
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