The heat hits you when you walk in the door, but what comes out of this kitchen is a colorful collection of fruits and vegetables, soups and sauces and many other foods ready for the pantry shelf.

Doug Minnix has seen it all in the 14 years he has worked at the Callaway Community Cannery.

"I had one lady bring in a tomato, so don't think it's too small," Minnix told WDBJ. "We've had truckloads of tomatoes come here and fill up the cannery."

Located next to Callaway Elementary School, the cannery is one of two in Franklin County, and one of perhaps a dozen left in the state.

"The canneries are a little known, but very valuable asset to any community," said cannery regular Russell Whalen, "more so than anyone really gives them credit for."

Last year, the Callaway cannery was busier than ever, evidence, supporters say, that more people are turning to canning to save money and have more control over the food their families consume.

Roddy Moore is the director of the Blue Ridge Institute at Ferrum College.

"This is just one of those little hidden treasures in a community not everyone knows about," Moore said, "but the people who do take advantage of it, use it."

Rita Bishop uses it. The Botetourt County resident is a regular, who was preparing spaghetti sauce when we visited. She tries to bring something different whenever she comes.

"I'm teaching my children," Bishop told us. "They're coming with me now, because I think this is an art that needs to be handed down to generations to come."

The Callaway Community Cannery is open Tuesdays and Fridays from mid- July through mid-December.

Members of the staff and cannery regulars say they will share their knowledge with anyone who wants to learn the enduring value of a southwest Virginia tradition.

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