Hoopa Cannery and Commercial Kitchen Becoming a Reality
By Kay Heitkamp / Two Rivers Tribune
For years, Hoopa Tribal Self Governance Director, Danny Jordan, has been working behind the scenes with a goal that anyone in the Hoopa Valley community who’s interested can either set up or have the use of a commercial kitchen to process the food they grow, the fish they catch, or the game they hunt.
“So many people tell me they have their grandmother’s recipe for a great spaghetti sauce or salsa, or an old family recipe for huckleberry jam or blackberry syrup,” said Jordan. “They want to sell products made from fresh produce that they grow on their own property, but they have no way to do it.”
Jordan says that the requirement to prepare food in a certified commercial kitchen has been the critical link that, until now, has been missing in the community. This is about to change.
A parcel of property on Loop Road in Hoopa was given a while back to the Hoopa TCCC which, in turn, has turned it over to Jordan’s department to use as the site for a cannery.
An existing house on the one and one-half acres of land will become the cannery and will accommodate two large commercial kitchen areas, two pressure cookers for canning, and work areas. A commercial size smoker will be installed with enough room for 16 – 20 fish at one time.
The house is in great condition and has never been finished inside. Jordan already has half the sheetrock needed to wall in the interior and all the insulation needed to finish the job. There is also a large commercial sink and lighting waiting to be installed.
The cannery can be used as a training site where the community can come to learn the entire canning process. Or, it can be used by individuals or families to actually process foods for commercial sales. Those who use the space will be responsible for cleaning up and leaving nothing behind. There will be no storage facilities.
A sea-container that Jordan has already obtained will be brought to the site and set up and outfitted as an example of the type of structure that can easily be installed by community members in their own backyards and used as certified commercial kitchens. An investment of $6,000 plus hard work will help people start up their own cottage industry type of business.
The home-based commercial kitchens will only need the amount of electricity required for an electric clothes dryer.
There will also be a very large metal structure on site that is currently lying dismantled on the ground. Jordan obtained it from the Presidio in San Francisco.
Once re-assembled, the structure could be used as a buying station where community members could bring their fish in the eventuality that full-scale commercial fishing on the Hoopa Valley Reservation is allowed.
If not, Jordan said that the space within the structure could be broken up and finished off to house a wood-working area for high school students to develop and market some of their traditional and contemporary work.
“There will be plenty of room for other forms of cultural projects, or even possibly a motorcycle repair shop,” said Jordan. “Whatever the needs are, we’ll try to meet them.”
During the process of setting up the different structures that will be a part of the cannery project, Jordan has been working with Executive Director Rhoby Cook with the Klamath Trinity Resource Conservation District (RCD).
The RCD’s board has responded to the needs of its stakeholders by making tractors and a trailer to haul the equipment around available for earth moving and roto-tilling. This will be a big asset to individuals and families who grow their own produce and need help working their property. Anyone who joins the RCD can use the tractors to enlarge the amount of property they can farm, enabling them to get a greater return of produce. Fencing will soon be available to protect growing areas from deer.
“The RCD is building its asset base and by doing so, they’re actually providing more services to their members who, in turn become more engaged with the local community,” said Jordan. “This will really help local citizens who want to grow produce for canning.”
Although not yet in the works, the RCD may host training programs about growing organic produce, or they may be interested in looking into an ordinance against genetically modified foods. All of their activities will directly tie in and benefit members of the local community who are also want to learn how to set up and run a commercial food kitchen to process produce, fish and meats.
“What I’ve been doing this past year is helping to create the missing links,” said Jordan. “I’ve been connecting up the pieces so that people in the community can sell what they make, whether its something made from their own gardens or from produce they’ve purchased somewhere or fish or game they’ve caught.”
Jordan said that by doing so, the tribe maintains the integrity of its local food which creates a good marketing opportunity for products made in Hoopa and surrounding areas.
“If we can continue to use Hoopa tribal sovereignty to build a foundation so that it creates marketing advantages for our community, that’s what we need,” Jordan said.
Jordan envisions people selling their fresh produce at local farmers’ markets, and then turning around and canning what doesn’t sell, turning fruits and vegetables into sauces, jams, salsas, pickles…the sky’s the limit.
In order to sell a food product, it must be certified by a county or state agency. Or, you can get a kitchen certified through a tribe that has its own Food Code. Hoopa does.
“I think we may be one of the only tribes in the state with our own formal food codes,” said Jordan. “The Hoopa Valley Tribe adopted its food code in 2003 as part of Title 56, the Business License Code. The food code is a regulation that’s part of Title 56.”
Jordan said the tribal food code was designed to meet the needs of local people. He envisions local production of traditional food products that will then be made available for sale in Hoopa. Jordan says there’s simply no reason why people shouldn’t be able to go downtown an buy traditional acorn soup or smoked salmon or blackberry jam.
“It’s the chicken or the egg issue, whether you need a store to sell homemade products or the products to sell in a store,” said Jordan. “It’s been shown that local people will buy local products. Our small local farms are an example of that. Once you have the products, markets will develop.”