When you think of Michigan State University Extension educating the public, you might picture an educator giving a demonstration at Ag Expo or a specialist holding a workshop in his or her district. Extension educators Joyce McGarry and Linda Huyck found an audience in a nontraditional setting when they gave food preservation demonstrations Aug. 12 at the Great Lakes Folk Festival.
Every year, the MSU Museum presents this celebration of cultural heritage in downtown East Lansing. It’s a time when blocking off the streets is a welcome sight. Instead of making way for road construction, workers make room for booths staffed by food and craft vendors and artists. Nearly 100 culturally diverse musicians and dancers perform on four performance stages.
This year, Lynne Swanson, MSU Museum collections manager, asked Joyce and Linda to present in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Morrill Act, which created land-grant colleges. The two Extension educators gave demonstrations in the outdoor “Test Kitchen” on canning jams and jellies, and canning salsa.
Joyce said, “All 20 chairs were filled with standing room only under and outside the tent. We had a lot of comments and questions: Can you reuse lids? I didn’t know about adding lemon juice to tomato products! What are low-acid foods?”
The educators came prepared with handouts on salsa and Michigan Fresh bookmarks – both quite popular with the crowd. Joyce and Linda took time during the demonstration to promote the Michigan Fresh website and fact sheets.
What’s most significant about this is that it reminds me that I’m running out of time to get some salsa put up. I never had training from someone like Joyce or Linda, so I play it safe and freeze mine.