Posts Tagged: LA County
Francine had 73 entries in this year's Preserved Foods competition and won the most first place ribbons this year, which earned her the prestigious 2012 Blue Ribbon Sweepstakes Award. To honor her achievement, The Master Food Preservers of Los Angeles County presented Francine with a Thermapen thermometer, generously donated by Thermoworks.
Francine has won the Blue Ribbon Sweepstakes Award nine times since her first win in 2001 and has become a living legend within preserved food competition circles. During the short time I spent with Francine at the LA County Fair, a number of people stopped in their tracks when they realized that they had stumbled upon the elusive Francine Rippy. One woman said she'd always wanted to meet Francine because she'd been losing to her for years. Another woman interrupted our interview to offer Francine the fruit from her neighbor's fig tree. Francine accepted these compliments with grace and left with a new source for fresh figs.
Entering the Preserved Foods Competition at the LA County Fair is only a small part of Francine's food preservation efforts. She preserves food year round, much of it coming from her four-acre property in Hacienda Heights. When asked about her favorite preserved food, Francine said that she likes the boysenberry leather best. Why? Because it's good. And she grows the boysenberries herself, just as her grandmother did.
When Francine was a child, she followed her grandmother around in the boysenberry patch on the family ranch, eating the ripe boysenberries and putting the unripe ones in her basket. When picking berries in her own boysenberry patch, Francine encourages young visitors to do the same. "I tell them that's their job since that's what I did."
Francine's grandparents' ranch has been turned into a museum-- The Hathaway Ranch & Oil Museum-- and Francine is the executive director. In this role, Francine helps to preserve a small piece of California's pioneer past, but she lives very much in the present. She's also always looking forward. I asked Francine if she had any advice for people hoping to enter the preserved foods competition at the LA County Fair next year. She smiled and said, "The judges have a sweet tooth."
Crowds of people, young and old, were waiting eagerly at the entry gate well before the start time of 10 a.m. Teamed with our fellow UCCE/Los Angeles County Master Gardeners—and located between the booths of Engineers Without Borders, OrangUtan Republik Foundation, and across from Friends of the Los Angeles River, we shared a table and white canopied booth and stayed busy, non-stop till 2pm, talking to people about their gardens and the art of food preservation. In all nearly 2200 people came through the Earth Day Festival and at least 500 of them stopped at our booth.
We also showed off jars of waterbath processed jams and marmalades, and pressure canned chicken and squash, which gave us a chance to explain how many methods of food preservation are available to the home preserver, along with tips for food safety practices.
More than one person said "My mom or my grandma used to can everything but I never learned how to do it." We explained that our role as MFPs was to offer our services as volunteer instructors to teach them how to do it themselves. We asked them to bring word back to their organizations and let them know to call us if they wanted free lessons.
Attached to the veggie packets we stapled MFP cards so that people would connect the idea of growing, harvesting then preserving their veggies and herbs knowing they could contact us for the know-how.
Families were out in force and many of the little ones were carrying around small plant pots that they had decorated at a special booth. Each pot contained a seed...some were given watermelon seeds, some had sunflowers, and of course we reminded them that these plants would need a lot more room than the cute pots they carried and should be transplanted as soon as they’re big enough.
Different kinds of saplings were distributed by various agencies, and people were carrying them around the festival grounds, looking just a little bit like Johnny Appleseed carting his apple trees across the country.
By the time the day ended, our seed supply had nearly been cleaned out, we'd talked to many hundreds of people about food preservation, and we felt we’d had a very successful day.