Jeannie Seabrook put three glass jars filled with pickles on a wooden table. Each jar held different sizes of pickles: the first small and sliced, the second finger-length and the third plump and the size of a fist.
“This is what they bring me. You wouldn’t find this at the grocery store,” she said. “It’s all uniform there.”
She takes the produce that farmers would otherwise throw away or feed to their animals — whether it be cucumbers too large to be sold in a store, an oversupply of tomatoes, or produce that just looks weird — and turns it into preserves, sauces, jams and jellies.
Seabrook then sells those products back to the farmers so they can sell it to consumers. Prices depend on the product, but are generally around $5.50 per jar.
She started the Glass Rooster Cannery in Sunbury with her sister Susie four years ago.
>>VIDEO: Canning operation saves produce
When Susie passed away last year, Seabrook continued on with their canning business. The sisters originally taught canning classes after farmers began to ask whether Seabrook could can their overstocked produce.
“We had a farmer who brought us 800 pounds of tomatoes and they were beautiful, so I asked him what was wrong. He said that the market standard is 3.5 inches (in diameter) but his were 3.25 inches,” Seabrook said. “So we made tomato sauce out of them.”
She currently works with about 12 local farmers, with more joining each year. The amount of crop she receives depends on the year and what does well in the marketplace. Once the farmers receive their canned goods, they usually sell them at farmers markets and to individuals, she said.
Seabrook puts her company’s label on the product, along with a label that tells the customer how and where the product originated.
“We don’t want them to grow for us,” Seabrook said of the farmers. “We want them to bring the stuff that would be composted. They have to pick it to get the next crop, and if they don’t have a market for it, it goes into the compost pile.”
The best part about canning, Seabrook said, is creating something out of a crop that would have gone to waste. She said she’s waste-conscious and wants to be a steward for future generations by keeping the planet healthy.
“I kind of feel like it’s my responsibility to the next generation,” she said.
Any waste from the canning process goes back to the farmer to feed livestock, or Seabrook composts it into her garden.
She’s had farmers bring her tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, apples, berries, peppers and more. The produce doesn’t have to be market standard or uniform, but she asks that it is high quality and fresh.
“That’s easy for them because farmers throw away about 80% of what they grow,” Seabrook said. “If you can grow it in Ohio, we’re doing something with it here.”
She has 30 recipes that have been FDA-approved and more than 140 that can be sold. Jam and jelly recipes do not have to be submitted for approval.
There isn’t a lot of money in the canning business, Seabrook said, but she doesn’t do it for the money.
“The income is secondary to being good stewards to the Earth,” Seabrook said. “That’s what the point of this whole thing is. If they can sell their product on the market, then that’s where it needs to be. We are only asking for the leftovers.”