GREENFIELD – Tikilia Martin was wide-eyed and grinning in a hot kitchen last week, taking in all she could glean from the Mastering Home Food Preservation program.

The Indianapolis resident came to Greenfield for the four-day program with in-depth lectures and hands-on labs on pressure canning, pickling, fermenting, freezing, dehydrating and more. Even though she lives in a large city, she said it’s a “food desert” with the nearest grocery store three miles away yet surrounded by fast-food chains and convenience stores.

“I love the idea of food preservation,” she said as she watched the pressure rise on a set of chili jars. “I’d love to be able to take this back to my community and teach ways to stretch our dollars.”

Martin was among nine women from across central Indiana that came to the Hancock County Fairgrounds for the in-depth training last week at eight hours a day. Purdue Extension educators are hosting three of these week-long this year throughout the state, and Greenfield was the site for the central region.

Participants learn about USDA-recommended procedures to ensure food is preserved safely. Martin planned to take her knowledge back to her friends and family, and the food pantry at her church. While she was thankful for the classroom-type lectures, her favorite part each day was the hands-on lab.

“I’m thinking I know it then I’m like, ‘what was I supposed to do?’” she said. “The hands-on makes it more impactful.”

Tikilia Martin waits patiently as masonry jars are pressured-cooked. The Purdue Extension recently hosted a class on canning. Patrons learned the fine details of canning and preserving their favorite products. Tom Russo | Daily Reporter

Mandy Gray, the Purdue food preservation educator for Hancock County, said not a day goes by that she doesn’t answer at least one phone call or email about how to safely preserve foods. The preservation trend grew during the 2020 pandemic, when people were trying new hobbies while also avoiding grocery stores.

“Now people just want to learn to be more sustainable,” she said.

Also a fad in recent years is many social media pages that have sprung up about canning. Gray said many of the tips shared there can be misinformation. The best way to preserve food, she said, is to use USDA-tested recipes and procedures to ensure food doesn’t spoil.

Purdue Extension recently held a class on canning. Patrons learned the fine details of canning and preserving their favorite products. Tom Russo | Daily Reporter

Jennifer McMillan of Cumberland said she learned canning techniques from her mother and grandmother. While she is grateful that the information was passed on through the family, she took the course so she could understand the science behind it.

She uses her grandfather’s pressure cooker and remembers fondly “tomato harvest day” when she was a child, and how the generations would gather to preserve their food. The idea continues today, she said, and she also likes to give canned goods as personalized gifts to friends.

“Everyone realizes that what we’re eating (from the store) is not the best,” she said. “If we can do something to make sure the food we’re eating is healthy and safe, everybody is for that.”

For more information on food preservation, visit or call Gray at 317-462-1113.