Master Food Preserver … no more :(

I went in search today of the information I needed to get my Master Food Preserver Certification here in Washington State. I don’t necessarily need it to do what I do  … but I thought it would be nice to have it, just the same. It would give me that extra little bit of gravitas when I talk about canning here/elsewhere, in addition to my own experience and in-depth study. Besides, I always love taking classes–and I have no doubt that I could pass their quizzes with flying colors–so I started making phone calls to see if I could get myself in a class this Spring.

What I found was a complete dead end! :(

Apparently the funding for the program has dried up to almost nothing, leaving only two counties in the entire state where they offer it. In addition, Washington State University–who runs the program–has apparently put forth a dictum (supposedly based on liability insurance) that–if you want to be certified–you have to actually live in one of two rural counties … period!

In other words, I can’t go to the class and get “certified” … simply because I don’t live in either of those two counties. I was told that–if they had space available–I could attend … but I’d have to pay $350 to take the class … rather than the $75 that people who live in one of those two counties pay. I wouldn’t be allowed to work off the difference like the other students do … by volunteering 80 hours of their time on the phone over the Spring/Summer … answering people’s questions about canning … because–even after paying more and taking the same class–I would STILL NOT be allowed to legally call myself a Master Food Preserver … simply because I don’t live in one of those two counties. And if you’re not a Certified Master Food Preserver … then you can’t volunteer on the phones … even though you’ve had the exact same training. I can’t even legally call myself a Master Food Preserver elsewhere, even though I’ve passed all the same training. All I can say is I’ve received Master Food Preserver training.

What the? :(

I understand that life in the US is no longer dictated by right or wrong. It’s dictated by liability. But that whole you have to live in one of two counties to be certified thing is questionable at best. And I’m not complaining about the nice lady who explained it to me on the phone today … I’m complaining about her boss who made that rule.

I’ve worked in insurance before, and–while I don’t claim to know everything about it (not by a long shot) … and I do know that policies can be written with any little funky exception you/the insurance company decides to add into the paperwork–I just can’t see where Washington State University’s insurance policies wouldn’t cover someone who lives in Washington State … just not in one of those two specific counties. As long as they take the required courses and pass the required tests, AND they live in the state of Washington … I don’t see what exact residency has to do with it, especially not at a county level … and especially not when we’re talking about a STATE university.

I was more than happy to get up at the crack of dawn and drive three hours one way–every Tuesday for two months–in order to to get my certification. It would have been a big, dedicated block of time and a lot of gas money, but I was more than willing to do it. I’d enjoy serving my time on the phone as an adviser, too. I like talking to people. I’d be a natural at it, and probably one of their best. I’d even be willing to pay the $350 for the class if I had to … AND do some volunteer time on the phone … but that whole “you can’t be Certified unless you live in either this county or this county … even if you take the class … AND pay for it” thing is simply ridiculous!

I’m not trying to sound like I think I’m a complete expert here. Even the most experienced person can always learn new things! However, I’m a trained researcher–two degrees in Journalism and English will do that to you–and I’ve done a ton of self-study on the subject so far. I’ve covered all of the simple information that’s readily available, in detail–and the deep scientific information, too–so not only can I process and preserve food safely in my own kitchen … I can also write better explanations for my readers of how things work, too. What I learn gets passed to you, rewritten and explained in a way that hopefully entertains occasionally … while also passing on the science of canning explained in examples and more plain language.

As far as moderated study goes, I passed all the pre-tests on the online study course provided by the NCHFP … BEFORE I even read their course material. Then I went on to ace their actual tests and receive their certificate, no problem …….

…….. so I wasn’t going to take the Master Food Preserver Certification course because I need it to understand the process for myself.  At this point, I don’t think there’s much they can really teach me in that class … especially not in a basic level class like that. In fact, I’d be willing to bet $500 (and I never bet unless I KNOW I’m going to win) that I could pass their certification test with their required >85% right now … even without taking the course.

No, I wanted to get my Master Food Preserver Certification so that I could say I was “Certified.” Granted, just like my BA or my MFA … that certificate and $4 would buy me a cup of coffee on any street corner in Seattle … *chuckles* I don’t need it … but at least it would have been some outside certification of my abilities for the occasional nay-sayer who comes along and probably thinks “I see … and how do YOU know that?” I don’t blame someone for doing that either. Like I said … I’m a trained researcher myself … and there’s no .edu or .gov extension on my URL. I’d have my doubts about me, too 8) … so that certification would have been nice to have. It would have put that percentage of my readers and their fears to rest. Plus–if I chose to–it would have given me the ability to advertise my services as a “certified” private canning teacher, too. But apparently certifying canning instructors is locked up by one entity in this state … and for some inane reason … they won’t certify anyone who doesn’t live in one of two counties :(

Ah well … more blogging time … right, gang? :)

About Lane

Just a canner ... on this food journey called life :)
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9 Responses to Master Food Preserver … no more :(

  1. Pingback: Product review: Cougar Cheese from the creamery at Washington State University | A Food Journey To Go

  2. Elizabeth says:

    That IS a drag, but since canning and preserving is a thing that can kill you if you don’t do it right, we can understand why they need to be very, very strict, right? I certainly agree that the liability fear, due to the lawsuit madness, drives way too many things, but at the same time I don’t want anyone who CLAIMS to know what they’re doing out there teaching people how to can. Good luck continuing to look for a way to get certified- perhaps another state’s extension? I have no idea….
    yours in safe canning-

  3. Lane says:

    I don’t know that another state is going to help me, Elizabeth. I can’t even get my OWN state to cover me … simply because I don’t live in one of two counties! … so other states are probably even less likely to take me into their program. I agree about people and their ‘claims.’ I recently had someone join one of my Yahoo groups who had recipes that came from someone who ‘taught classes’ in her area … and her recipes AND her processes were WRONG, WRONG, WRONG! … things almost guaranteed to make her/her family sick … so that scared me for her … since …. who’s she going to believe? Me? Some stranger on the internet? Or the person she met face-to-face and gave money to … who talked like they knew what they were talking about. Granted, I was able to give her NCHFP links to show her that they’d said “NO!” to several of the things she’d been taught to do … but I honestly don’t know if that was enough to convince her. It’s much harder to re-program someone who’s been taught wrong … than it is to teach them the right way to start with.

    I’ll keep hoping, Elizabeth! Maybe I’ll figure out how to get my certification eventually. Let me know if you have any other ideas … short of claiming I live somewhere else, that is. I’m not going to do something illegal just to get my certification … even if there are loopholes in their rules that I could probably pervert if I wanted to.

  4. Sally says:

    Hey, I live in Seattle, and I too would be quite interested in taking the course. When I checked I got Whatcom (90 miles N) and Clark (yikes, getting close to Portland). I think that canning is having a resurgence of popularity lately, and although the money may not be available thru King County, it could come up through the City of Seattle. With all their pea-patch money (they got a big grant in 2009, I think about 2 million, but pls don’t quote me), there could be school of thought to help teach all the immigrants (farmers in the pea patches) how to preserve their food. So, others could be included too? Hmm, just some food for thought.

  5. Lane says:

    It’s an interesting thought, Sally. I may have to see what I can find out about that. Thanks for giving me another angle to pursue! :)

  6. Judith Inge says:

    I’m running into the same brick wall in Kentucky. Seems our biggest university doesn’t run the program at all. My local extension agent has even done some research on it for me and got blank stares. It’s never even been offered here.


  7. Lane says:

    well POO!, Judith! Sorry you’re in the same boat! With budget cuts, our chances get smaller and smaller … so I’m relying more and more on my Yahoo groups. At least they speak from experience :)

  8. Liz says:

    So, I’m glad I found this post as I too live in King County and was looking into getting my Master Preserver cert. What a bunch of crap that you have to live in the county it’s being offered in! You know Seattle Tilth offers a class too in May, but I was deterred by the $375 cost, I guess it’s not so bad now. Their class also certifies you to teach canning for 3 years I believe. I had big hopes of getting certified and being able to teach some classes at the farm I’m working at and to branch out to get my kitchen certified for home production, thanks to the new cottage food laws in WA state. Boo!

  9. Lane says:

    hi Liz :)

    i saw the Seattle Tilth stuff, too…back when i first started looking for a MFP program … but when i read over what they said about it on the web (it’s been a while now) … i got the impression that–even after paying the $375 fee–you still couldn’t officially call yourself a “MFP” … just like with the state program when you didn’t live in the right county… you could come and pay your $375…but then–once you were finished–you could only say “i’ve taken the Master Food Preservers class”…you couldn’t actually call yourself a “MFP”….so i scrapped that idea …. since they were selling the same thing the state was … when–either way–you couldn’t get the actual certification…

    granted, i may have mis-read it back then…and it’s no longer on their website for me to check to be sure….but that sure soured me on their whole program…

    someone will eventually have problems with home-canned food here again…and–i response–hopefully King County will decide it’s a big enough problem that they need to teach classes again locally…and get a few more MFP’s on the phone to help others…so you and i will have our chance to take the class! :)

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