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Capturing time in a bottle

Artisans and farmer help others rediscover the lost art of canning.


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For Todd Champagne, preserving the moment of making great food and having the harvest season last just a little bit longer is as simple as two words: I can!

Todd and his wife Jordan preserve their memories by preserving food, operating a small-scale cannery along the Central Coast named Happy Girl Kitchen. It's a project that has been fermenting for years, you might say. The couple started with a small pickling business in early 2000, but soon discovered the bounty of produce growing around them in Santa Cruz County and realized there was so much more food they could preserve. So they began making juices, sauerkrauts, jams, jellies and anything they could, all from local produce—produce such as what they get from Tom Broz' Live Earth Farm in Watsonville.

Tom grows almost 50 different crops on about 80 acres. Most of the produce goes into boxes and ultimately the homes of Tom's 800 CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) customers to enjoy. But he found that the opportunity to give his customers a more diverse product selection, while still educating them about his farm, was one he couldn't pass up.

"It's been great to work with both Todd and Jordan," Tom said. "To see how they can produce a product that reflects what Live Earth Farm really stands for is awesome because I think people appreciate having a connection to the farm."

Because of all the produce Tom and other farmers in the area provide him, Todd has been able to develop an extensive line of Happy Girl Kitchen products, which he now sells at his own shop in Monterey County. In addition to the store, Todd and his posse of food preservationists also sell the products at several farmers markets across the Bay Area. They host workshops showing others how to pickle, ferment and preserve produce as well.

Whether in the kitchen, at a market or out at a farm, Todd is hoping others will rediscover the lost art of canning and enjoy it as much as he does. For him and farmers like Tom, their "message in a bottle" is simple: You can enjoy a taste of California produce all year long now.

For more information about Happy Girl Kitchen, visit www.happygirlkitchen.com.


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