(Photo courtesy Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum)

Though there’s still farm after farm here in the Eastern Shore’s “Land of Pleasant Living,” you’ll rarely see one commercially producing tomatoes and canned tomatoes in general have gone to the wayside as fresh tomatoes are able to be easily trucked onto grocery store shelves year round.
And when Monday rolls around, folks drive in several different direction rather than streaming in together through the same factory doors.
The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum will be focusing on the economic evolution of the former “warm-weather king of Chesapeake packing houses” in its Winter Speaker Series 2018: Picked, Packed and Shipped: Tomato Canning in the Chesapeake. Each of the four sessions will explore a different angle and as with all CBMM series, leave listeners “a greater appreciation for the people and environment of the Chesapeake Bay.”
The first session to kick off the series on Thursday, Feb 8, at 2 p.m. will focus on “How Produce Shaped a Community.” The panel will include familiar “big names” on the Shore such as Sylvia Gannon and Merton Jarboe, whose family operated the Harrison & Jarboe Company in Sherwood.
There will also be treasures from the past shown, such as cannery tokens that were used to track the number of tomatoes workers peeled and photographs of the canneries and their workers shown to enhance the discussion.
On the following Thursday, Feb. 15, the 2 p.m. lecture will be a screening of “Til-Made: Remembering the Tilghman Packing Company,” a film produced by Tilghman Watermen’s Museum.
From the interviews with old timers who remember heading to the cannery after school to historians filling in the background information on the “economic lifeblood,” it’s unique glimpse of an Eastern Shore how many in the older generation remember it and how those in the younger generation can’t imagine it.
Previously aired on Maryland Public Television, the documentary shows lost in time footage of the ladies working in their dresses and skirts with children by their side as they shipped out a variety of oysters, crabs, tomatoes with pride.
Discussed are the impacts that war, refrigeration, transportation, and changing company owners would have on the small community the packing company created.
On Thursday, Feb. 22 at 10 a.m., the lecture will be “Canning in Chesapeake Communities” with former Delaware Secretary of Agriculture and author Ed Kee.
Kee, who wrote the book Saving Our Harvest: The Story of the Mid-Atlantic Region’s Canning and Freezing Industry, will tell “The story of the mid-atlantic vegetable processing industry is an economic history, a story of agricultural, societal and cultural change.
“It is also a story of what can be considered America’s first homegrown industry and of an industry that helped feed the nation and the world.”
With hundreds of canneries operating in Maryland during the 1920s, Kee will discuss “Chesapeake’s once-mighty canning industry and the ways it impacted life in Chesapeake communities, both large and small, over its 100-year peak.”
The series will close out on Thursday March 1, at 10 a.m. with UMBC chief curator emeritus Tom Beck with his discussion “Turning the Camera on Child Labor: The Photography and Legacy of Lewis Hine.”
Beck will share the remarkable photography of children’s labor law reformer Lewis Hine, a photographer for the National Child Labor Committee who would carry out risky endeavors to capture images of children working not only in canning but in glassmaking, cotton mills, and more.
The photos show very real glimpses into some of the dangerous duties children faced as they went to work amongst adults and would be an important part of child labor reform. Attendees are invited to come to one session or the whole series.
The cost per session is $6 for CBMM members, $8 for non-members, or register for all sessions and save: $20 for members, $28 for non-members. To register, and for more information, visit bit.ly/WinterSpeakerSeries_18.