published Saturday, July 6th, 2013

Renovated Bradley County Cannery reopens

Beirne Beaty loads canned beans onto a cart at the Bradley County Cannery.
Beirne Beaty loads canned beans onto a cart at the Bradley County Cannery.
Photo by Paul Leach.

BRADLEY COUNTY CANNERY

Call 423-728-7001 for an appointment or more information.

Appointment hours are generally between 5:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.

Cannery closes by 1:30 p.m.

No commercial canning is permitted.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The Bradley County Cannery has opened its doors to canning enthusiasts after a two-month delay related to site improvements.

On Friday -- the second day of the facility's operations this summer -- more than a dozen people worked, sweated and laughed as they processed peaches, corn and beans throughout the morning.

"People were desperate to get back into the cannery," said Mary Lou Woods, who supervises daily cannery operations.

"At last!" exclaimed Beirne Beaty, a canning veteran who has used the cannery for a number of years.

During the cannery's off-season, which lasts from November to early May, the 37-year-old facility underwent renovations to increase its space by at least half, said officials with the University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Office in Bradley County, the agency that oversees the cannery.

The additional space provides a separate area for food preparation and gives more room for actual canning activities in the old part of the structure, said Kim Frady, director of the agricultural office. The renovations also improve traffic flow and provide better sidewalk access.

The additional room and extra screen doors make the facility less cramped and give it better ventilation, said Retha Odom, a cannery volunteer who supervised operations for 18 years. She said some rearranging of equipment and tables would make things even more efficient.

The project ran into an unexpected delay related to the necessity of connecting the facility to Cleveland's sewer system, Frady recently told Bradley County commissioners.

The renovation cost $53,000. The county used money left over when a position in the extension office was not filled last year.

Some canning enthusiasts said they would like to see more improvements to the facility, such as a paved parking lot and better outside lighting.

"At 5 a.m., it's dark when Mary Lou opens the place," Calvin Arnold said. "The cannery needs a security light."

The Bradley County Cannery, which charges no fees for its use, is one of the true taxpayer benefits to the county, Beaty said.

The canning community is a special one, with old and new patrons helping one another with a sense of fellowship in the steamy cement building, Woods said.

"There is always laughter in this place," she said.

Families are not the only patrons, said Woods, noting that several Lee University students regularly can vegetable soup to last them through the school year.

In a regular year, Woods said, the cannery will process 24,000 to 27,000 cans. Even with this year's operations cut down to four months, she expects about 17,000 cans will be processed, she said.

In addition to offering canning by morning appointments, the facility hosts some afternoon canning classes throughout the canning season, Woods said.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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