Every Tuesday and Thursday from the spring until the winter, Maxine Jones and George Perez open the doors to Tri-County Community Action Agency’s cannery at 7:30 a.m.

Located at 1147 Huell Matthews Highway in between the agency and Bo’s Hydraulics, farmers and gardeners bring in beans, corns, tomatoes and any and every vegetable one can think of.

It costs $10 to use the cannery plus 50 cents for every can.

Once the vegetables are cleaned, Jones and Perez guide the growers on how to can, steam and seal their vegetables.

In addition to the machines needed to can vegetables, the cannery also has a juicer and a machine used to shuck corn.

“We give them a guideline to go by, and they come in and do their own thing, but we help them,” said Jones, who also said often times once someone finishes with their vegetables, they’ll turn around and help the next person.

“They’re all very friendly and help each other. It’s a way to meet a lot of people,” she added.

Even though Jones, Perez and Tri-County’s CEO Petrina Carter admitted the cannery is an often forgotten about place, there are still plenty who take advantage of it.

It has been open for roughly 40 years, previously operated by longtime employee Marie Barksdale.

Individuals from other areas such as Martinsville, Danville and Lynchburg have taken advantage of the cannery, in addition to locals.

Located in an area with food deserts, Carter said a cannery is an important asset to the county.

The USDA economic research service considers South Boston a food desert, which is based off people’s access to healthy, affordable food.

“In an area with food deserts, we need to be able to grow and preserve our food,” said Carter, who plans to market the cannery as a community kitchen.

“Farmers can come in, can their goods and take them to the farmers market. They can sell the cans at the farmers markets, and it will allow people in the winter months to have fresh, locally grown vegetables,” said Carter, who also is talking with the schools to try to get children to come tour the cannery.

They also would like to market the cannery to churches, nonprofits and fire departments as a place to make their stews.

“We can have them in and out in an hour and a half to two hours,” said Perez.

It’s a place that Carter, Jones and Perez take a lot of pride in and work to maintain a clean and safe environment.

“We want people to take advantage of it,” said Jones.

The cannery will be open until December, and while usually open between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., individuals are welcome to make appointments for other times.

To make an appointment, call the cannery at 434-575-1447 or call Tri-County Community Action Agency at 575-7916.

Information about the cannery also can be found online at tricountyva.org.

Ashley Hodge reports for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at ahodge@gazettevirginian.com

Ashley Hodge is a staff writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at ahodge@gazettevirginian.com