From his post at the Stanton Cannery, Richard Turner has steadfastly preserved the foodways traditions of the rural communities of Stanton, Haywood County, and West Tennessee. The Cannery was opened in 1973 by the Chickasaw Area Development Commission. In the 1970s, Richard visited several canneries in Tennessee and learned the traditional industrial canning techniques. Today, the Stanton Cannery is the only cannery still open from those original CADC canneries and is the Town of Stanton’s prized community asset. Richard has been the sole operator since it opened. Under his leadership, the Cannery has played a significant part in community life and is a center of local folklife traditions.
Families have relied on Richard for over forty years to provide the training and knowledge needed to can their vegetables and make traditional foods such as chow-chow, cracklings, and muscadine jelly. He has taught innumerable people the essentials of canning, including the proper processing and preservation of their garden produce. During an average season, Richard cans about 23,000 quarts of vegetables, grinds about 9,000 lbs of sausage, 3,000 lbs of deer burger, and (between 1975-1998), made about 150 gallons of hog lard per season. On average, 425 families use the Cannery each year. Richard has also collected recipes from local residents in order to save the food heritage of the community from being forgotten. Neighbors refer to Richard as “an icon in our community,” noting that without him, the art of canning would have been lost in Haywood County.
In 2007, Richard was honored with a certificate of Congressional Recognition for his loyal service to the Stanton Cannery. In 2021, he received the Tennessee Governor’s Arts Award in Folklife Heritage.
Apprentice Jeffery Boyland has observed Richard’s canning process for several years. His interest in canning was piqued when he participated in various aspects of the process for church events or family reunions. Jeffery is interested in learning the entire range of canning techniques and recipes from Richard, as “nobody else in Stanton or the West Tennessee region knows the recipes Richard uses, and it is rare to meet somebody in the region who knows (and practices) canning food.” Jeffery recognizes Richard as a “local icon” and believes his knowledge needs to be transmitted to the next generation.
He says, “Within the rural West Tennessee area, there is a culture specific not only to the region, but also to specific ethnic groups. The Stanton Cannery has been an integral part of that culture, community, and family. During mealtimes and during special events, the foods are consumed and compared to previous years, and with food available in grocery stores and restaurants. This enhances the sense of community and having something unique to celebrate. As these canned goods are integral to the community, it is essential that they are passed on as part of the culture.”