Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Food Farmer Earth: A Small Cannery, a Community's Pride

For much of the last century, fishing was a secure livelihood for the people of Oregon's coastal towns, but in the 70s the industry crashed. Tiny Skipanon Brand Seafood survived because Mark Kujala and his family built a microcannery and began marketing their canned fish themselves. My interview for Food Farmer Earth tells their story.

It’s amazing to imagine what it must have been like to walk along the docks of Oregon’s small coastal towns like Astoria and Warrenton in the first half of the twentieth century. Hundreds of fishing boats would chug into port after spending weeks at sea, their holds full of salmon, tuna and sturgeon. They’d tie up next to the thirty or so canneries that lined the waterfronts and unload their catches, the air filled with the shouting of dock workers and the cry of seabirds looking to scoop up any scraps.

In the 1970s, Oregon’s coastal fishing industry, consisting for the most part of small, family-owned boats, was being devastated by the rise of large foreign fleets competing for ever-decreasing stocks. Seeing the industry changing and the big canneries moving out or closing, Warrenton fisherman Norman Kujala adapted by building his own cannery on the banks of the Skipanon River in 1978.

Skipanon Brand Seafood is now run by the second generation of the Kujala family, including Paul, who fishes for salmon on the family boat called the Cape Windy, and Mark, who runs the cannery and oversees the processing of salmon, sturgeon and albacore…

Read the rest of my story about the Kujalas and Skipanon, then watch Skipanon's Shirley Tischer demonstrate how to fillet a tuna…amazing!

In this week's cooking segment, you can learn to can your own fish (in this case sardines) at home using a pressure canner. To find out more about this series of interviews with local food producers, and to get some terrific recipes featuring the ingredients discussed, consider a free subscription. 

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