Preserving Homegrown Produce

Putting up the garden bounty at Polyface Farms is a family affair.

| October/November 2017


Joel and his family preserve and ferment foods to eat throughout the year.

Photo by Shutteye Photography

I’ve amassed quite a few statistics about food trends in the United States over my years of reading. One that sticks out is that almost a fifth of all food consumption in the United States occurs in automobiles. Imagine how that percentage could increase in a future of self-driving cars, when you won’t have to hold your sandwich in one hand and turn the steering wheel with the other.

Another one: the average American spends about 37 minutes per day on meal preparation — or less than 15 minutes per meal. Even for those who have the time, today’s hottest food trend is convenience. Around our farm, we joke that everyone wants “Polyface Hot Pockets.”

And here’s another: At 4 p.m. each day, at least 70 percent of Americans have no idea what they’re going to eat for supper.

The cumulative import of these statistics speaks to a profound lack of culinary planning in modern-day America. On our farm and in our family, we’re certainly the exception to the norm. We spend a lot of time doing what old-timers called “laying by,” or spending the abundant season preparing for the scarce season. This was done in every household until extremely modern times.

Today, anyone who puts this much thought and effort into preserving homegrown produce for the offseason is in danger of being branded a “prepper.” In fact, doomsday sells: Just look at the number of suppliers who will send you food packages that will last a decade. It’s big business.

But here at Polyface Farms, we don’t buy next-decade food. We grow food or buy it locally and “lay it by.” We start with early fruit, such as strawberries, which we freeze by the quart — after eating ourselves silly. Then come mulberries and, near hay time, blackberries. By August, our early apples are ripe and we begin making homemade applesauce.

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