Nellie Buchanan FCS agent in Morgan Co. EZEL, Ky. While basic needs were the main concern after many lost everything to an early March tornado, many Eastern Kentucky residents are now working to replace some of the lesser items they lost—like canning supplies.

“We usually do at least one food preservation workshop each year,” said Nellie Buchanan, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension agent for family and consumer sciences in Morgan County. “This year we’ll do more, mainly as a result of the tornado earlier this year.”

Buchanan said many people who lost their homes lost everything in them and, while she and her colleagues were right there with their friends and families on the front lines of recovery, they are still finding ways to give back. They lost their own office to the storm, and the staff has been working in alternate locations since then.

Regardless of location, Buchanan and her colleagues are committed to helping the region recover, this time by putting food preservation supplies, know-how and recipes in their hands.

The first workshop was at the Pine Grove Community Church. Attendees spanned at least three generations, with some grandmother’s attending with grandchildren, hoping to teach them to love canning and to carry on the skill when they are grown. As the women and children sliced cucumbers and peaches, they talked about how good the end product would taste and many commented on how easy the process was.

“If you think it’s going to be hard, I would just say to try it,” Buchanan said. “We urge people to start with something simple like pickles and jam. Anyone can do those things with a reasonable amount of success. We want you to enjoy food preservation.”

Gwenda Lane recently retired from the public school system. A lifelong resident of Morgan County and the Ezel community, she came to get a refresher course in food preservation.

“I have three grandchildren who love homemade jams and jellies and pickles,” said Lane, who is also a member of the Solid Rock Homemaker Club of Ezel. “I used to do lots of this, but I didn’t really have time when I taught school. Now I plan on having lots of time to do it and getting my grandchildren involved as well.”

Lane said she thinks food preservation is growing in popularity because of the economy and higher food prices, but also because more and more, people want to know where their food comes from.

“People feel like they are doing something that is important, and they feel better about eating something if they make it themselves,” she said. “I enjoy it all from growing it, to gathering it, to canning it and to eating it, most of all.”

In a little more than two hours, the participants walked out with canned pickles and peach jam and a reusable bag full of goodies that included recipes, pickling spices, strainers, cutting mats and magnets to retrieve boiled lids.

Buchanan also did the workshop in the Crocket/Paint area of Morgan County, one of the hardest hit areas during the March tornado. She said they would do a few sessions in West Liberty as well.

“Resiliency is one of the most special things about Morgan County,” Buchanan said. “Our neighbors and friends from all over the state and the country came to help us rebuild. We just want our folks to get back to some semblance of normal.”