What’s in your pantry these days? I freely admit to having more canned food in my pantry than ever before. (I’m fond of canned, fishy things such as sardines, anchovies, salmon, and good tuna; canned tomatoes in a variety of forms. Not so fond of canned tomato juice; I prefer it in a plastic jug. Possibly fortified with vodka!)
The Carolina Mountains brand label touts “Mountain Grown” and urges the smart shopper to “Drink Tomato Juice Daily”. The illustration of the Carolina Mountains and boulder-strewn rushing stream looks more like the Rockies to me, but I quibble. If you look closely the label suggests adding Lea & Perrins sauce, lemon juice, and celery salt for a “delicious cocktail.” I’d add a dollop of horseradish to give it a wallop. However, it lacks mentioning any fortifying liquid mentioned in the previous paragraph. Look closely and you’ll see the tasty juice was packed by the Farmers Federation, Inc. located in Asheville N.C. Recognize this building which still stands today?
The Farmers Federation was founded in 1920 by James G. K. McClure who lived in Fairview. Bonus points to you if you immediately know what farm he and his family lived on. Descendants of James G.K. McClure still farm today. The Federation bought in bulk which enabled farmers to purchase seeds, feeds, fertilizer, and hardware at a reasonable cost. The federation also purchased farmers products and marketed them, freeing the farmers from personally marketing their goods.
In 1927 the Federation built the WNC Cannery in Henderson county to process vegetables. Since the closure of the NC Room, I’ve not been able to discover precisely where the cannery was located. If you know where it was located please enlighten me. In 1937 the Federation had 3500 members and a total of 17 warehouses in various Western North Carolina locations. Sometime after the war the Federation moved to another building which still stands. Does this look familiar as well?
Many of us of a certain age grew up eating canned foods; processed in a factory or, in my case, canned in glass jars by my grandmother: grape juice, sausage (yes!), beans, corn, tomatoes, and more. My mother canned a bit, but she froze a lot of things: corn, beans, beef (from my grandparent’s farm), and something called “strawberry freezer jam” starting in the late 1960’s. Both were ready, if needed, to have food at hand in case of emergency.
Other vegetable processing and canning plants were scattered over Western North Carolina. I recently found another vintage label. I love the name of the product which should give you a clue which county where the the cannery was located. Find yourself a gazetteer if needed!
Posted by Terry Taylor, Friends of the NC Room board member