Group labor on the farm has always been a chracteristic of the German settlers of eastern Pennsylvania. The so-called “cooperative movement” of the 20th century is not new to these people except in legal details. They have cooperated at butchering time, in corn huskings, barn raisings, threshing, cider-making and on family moving days.
Canning food in glass jars has long been practiced by the housewife on every farm, for with these people waste is sinful and a bursting granary, a filled smokehouse, and cellar shelves stacked with hundreds of jars of imprisoned delicacies — all of these have been regarded for centuries as the surest form of wealth.
The necessary facts were there. All that was needed to organize a cooperative canning enterprise was to provide the leadership to bring them together. The leadership was supplied through the agency of the Lebanon County schools. Beginning in April, 1944, the teachers of agriculture and home economics instructed housewives in the mechanics of preserving food in tin containers. By the time that the cherry season, mid-june, more than 50 families had joined in the project. A canning factory was set up on the Bamberger farm, not far from the city of Lebanon.
The first day of operation was a memorable one as more than 60 members gathered on the Bamberger lawn and staged a “cherry pitting” party. Later two pea hullers were installed on the Bamberger premises. With the aid of this device almost two bushelds of pea kernels can be hulled in 30 minutes.
During the first eight weeks of operation there were 17,000 cans of fruits and vegetables processed at the Bamberger farm, far more than could have been produced by individualized home canning. The members bring their surplus supplies, peas, beans, corn, tomatoes and other vegetables, to the cannery and take home filled cans labelled with the serial number which is assigned to the member.
The Lebanon Canning Co-op was the first organization of its kind to begin operations in Pennsylvania.
All of the old-time fellowship of group labor is present in the gay cherry pitting, apple-snitzing, bean podding and tomato-squeezing parties on the Bamberger lawn and yet the efficiencies of modern machinery are made available to those who join the canning “Co-op”