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This Mobile Food Canning Operation Goes Where It's Needed Most

What’s better than a group of friends making and eating food together on a farm? Processing it all on site together. At least that’s what Brad and Amanda Kik, founder of ISLAND, thought when they first conceived the idea of a mobile processing kitchen a few years ago.

Inspired by their non-profit’s series of food preservation workshops that were gaining popularity around their small Bellaire, Michigan community, the Kik’s decided to take their arts and ecology center dedicated to “connecting people with nature, art and community,” out into the actual community.

While they currently run a mobile, MDA certified poultry processor that allows small farmers to process chickens, ducks and turkeys, the success of their preservation workshops made them think about how they could pack up their kitchen and take it out on the road. With that, they created a trailer that unpacks into a high-efficiency, three-season food preservation kitchen and workshop space.

Brad says there’s something about the combination of farm fresh food, old time skills and working together in the community that’s impossible to resist.

“I think the making movement and food share the appeal of getting back to using our hands and physical intelligence. We've figured out that the people who have claimed responsibility for leading us, feeding us and supposedly helping us preserve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness have no clue how to create anything meaningful for us, and we're reclaiming that for ourselves and our communities,” says Brad.

While ISLAND's work is all about finding the hidden interconnections, “and food is ripe with relationship—to politics, to economy, to culture, to ecology, to history, to art,” says Brad, the mobile food preservation kitchen still needs funding to make it fully operable in the community.

They are currently one of five finalists for a community grant from Oryana, a natural foods co-op in Traverse City, Michigan, to get the preservation trailer funded. Voting runs through April 18th.

The Kiks envision the trailer at peak harvest, pulling up wherever it's needed and unloading tents, tables and outdoor stoves with the interior containing equipment, sinks and workspace that can host up to a dozen people. ISLAND says beyond canning, the trailer will support drying, fermenting, smoking and meat curing. It will serve as a farm-based space to hold classes and community food preservation parties, "so that folks can learn the important techniques of food preservation, meet their farmers and enjoy shared work."

Preserving, curing and drying are all important parts of our food history and how we've been able to survive through good and bad times. While mainstream society has become so far removed from the traditions (canning, curing, preserving) of their grandmothers and grandfathers, the Kik’s preservation trailer is a step back in time to preserve more than food.

Brad says the message of our culture over the last 50-60 years is that the work of the household economy is secondary to the work of the marketplace, and that the “homework” of our grandmothers was something to escape.

“If there are any advantages to the resurgence of these ‘lost’ skills, it's that we no longer have to assign gender roles to the tasks of working at home, and that the interval of chasing fast food in the modern economy has helped to infuse these old tasks with new meaning,” says Brad.

While much of ISLAND’S work is about finding creative responses to global predicaments including climate change, alternative energy, and species extinction, Brad says bringing community together to create solidarity under food can begin with a single trailer.

“Responding to these issues would be one where, despite a wide difference of opinion in political, religious and other values, people would treat each other with respect and civility, and the word ‘economy’ would be used in reference to how a community lives responsibly within the ecology, history and limits of its small place,” says Brad.

Sound the cheering nationwide in hopes they get that trailer.

images courtesy of ISLAND

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