It sounded like a good idea at the beginning of the season.
When Dearing Elementary School teacher Peggy Carter got out of school for the summer, she thought she "had no excuse not to have a nice garden" on her small farm. So, she planted some squash, purple hull peas, butter beans and tomatoes. For some reason, the peas flourished better than anything else.
Every day, Ms. Carter had to shell peas. Almost one month later, the good idea had lost its appeal.
"I told my sister I've got a new fingernail polish, it's called 'purple hull,'" Ms. Carter said with a laugh. "I was tired of shelling and about ready to not have a garden any more."
Her sister told her about the Thomson High School Cannery, located between the elections office and the animal control shelter. One of 36 in the state, the cannery provides small farmers and home gardeners with a place to economically can or freeze their harvest. And they shell peas.
"They were so nice. They even helped me carry my peas in from the car," Ms. Carter said. "They did an absolutely wonderful job. It was so clean and the price was unbelievable."
Agricultural teachers Jersey Johnson and Rick Dubose from Thomson High School and Jay Murray from Thomson Middle School oversee the cannery each year. Agricultural students also work there from time to time.
For a small fee, patrons can bring cleaned, fresh vegetables to be canned or blanched for freezing. Peas and beans can be shelled, then bagged for home preparation, or canned or blanched at the cannery. The cannery provides the cans for any canning process, but patrons must provide their own freezer bags.
"It's just wonderful to know that they are there. I finally had some free time," Ms. Carter said. "I was about ready not to have a garden anymore, but I definitely will be back next summer. But I'm going in June next year."
Mr. Dubose said many patrons make their own vegetable soup at home, then bring it to the cannery to be put in cans. Soups containing meat are not allowed because of more stringent health stipulations.
The same day that he was shelling and blanching Ms. Carter's peas, Mr. Dubose was making cans of tomato soup for another customer. He said many patrons drive from other counties, because the closest cannery is in Swainsboro.
In the fall, the cannery is used to teach agriculture classes. Mr. Dubose said they usually boil and can peanuts during that class.
"I think to have something in the community that holds onto the old fashioned way of doing things and at the same time, teaches the children about agriculture, is a wonderful thing," Ms. Carter said.
The cannery itself has no telephone, but persons wishing more information, can call THS Assistant Principal Mike Smallwood at 706-986-4212.
WHAT: Thomson High School Cannery
WHERE: White Oak Road SE between the McDuffie Animal Shelter and the McDuffie Elections Office
HOW MUCH: Shelling butter beans or peas is 10 cents per pound, canning produce is 40 cents per can.
HOURS: 7:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. only on July 30 and 31
MORE INFO: Call 706-986-4200 or 706-986-4212.