Master Food Preserver is a certification that people can earn designating that they have undergone and passed training and courses in modern, up-to-date methods of food preservation.
These people are advanced canners, qualified to give advice and act as volunteers for safe home canning.
- 1 Master Food Preservers: A Uniquely American Qualification
- 2 What are the responsibilities of a Master Food Preserver?
- 3 Master Food Preserver course locations
- 4 Other Similar Certifications
- 5 Background information about the program
- 6 History of the Master Food Preserver Program
- 7 Further reading
Master Food Preservers: A Uniquely American Qualification
A Master Food Preserver appears to be a certification offered uniquely in America.
A Master Food Preserver is a person who goes out into the community as a volunteer to help train other people how to safely preserve food at home.
To become a Master Food Preserver, a person receives extensive, in-person training in the latest technology and information available in the field of home food preservation. This is done either in a block of all-day sessions, or over a period of weeks and months.
The courses that a Master Food Preserver candidate takes are “train the trainer” courses. You don’t just learn now to can safely as an end user. You learn the why, what resources to use to keep up to date, and how to go out and “spread the gospel” of safe canning.
What are the responsibilities of a Master Food Preserver?
In return for the indepth training, education and certification, the Master Food Preserver agrees to become an ongoing volunteer in the field of safe home preserving through their local University’s Extension office, doing tasks such as “answering phone calls, developing and hosting exhibits, judging at competitions, etc.”  National Center for Home Food Preservation. Frequently Asked General Preservation Questions. Accessed March 2015.
The fine details of the responsibilities may vary by state. For instance, with the University of California, you “ 50 volunteer hours the first year, then 25 volunteer hours and 12 continuing education hours each subsequent year.”  Sue Mosbacher, UCCE Master Food Preservers Program Representative, Central Sierra and Sacramento, to Healthy Canning. October 2019.
Here is the “job” description for Washington State:
- Assist county and state Extension faculty by answering food safety/preservation inquiries….
- Staff information booths and present demonstrations at [farmers’ markets, fairs], local festivals and/or produce stands.
- Assist the county office staff with distribution of food safety/preservation materials.
- Teach and/or assist with events and classes
- Test Pressure Canner Gauges
- Answer questions daily with Food Preservation Helpline
They… go by invitation to various businesses in the community where they give lectures and/or demonstrations, and work booths [fairs…] and Farmer’s Markets to mention just a few. They are constantly answering questions, giving recommendations and sharing approved methods of food preservation. To reach the most people and to be of the best service to the community these dedicated volunteers do most of their volunteering on weekends and in the evenings when the demand is the greatest, giving of their time freely.”  Accessed January 2019 at https://extension.wsu.edu/clark/healthwellness/foodpreservation/master-food-preservers/ and https://extension.wsu.edu/clark/healthwellness/foodpreservation/master-food-preservers/
Master Food Preserver course locations
Fees varying by institution offering the program.
- University of Arizona (“Master Food Volunteer”)
- University of California
- University of Colorado
- Cornell (periodically)
- University of Hawaii
- University of Idaho (“Master Food Safety Advisor Program”)
- Kansas State (“Master Food Volunteer”)
- University of Kentucky (“Master Food Volunteer”)
- University of Maine
- Oregon State University
- Penn State
- Purdue University (Indiana)
- South Dakota State University
- Texas A & M
- Virginia (“Master Food Volunteer”)
- University of Wisconsin
- Washington State (Benton)
- Washington State (Clark)
Not all extensions in all areas offer the course. Some have stopped, owing to lack of resources.
Associated: Slow Food Preservers Los Angeles (See history section)
Ohio State: We checked with Ohio State Extension in June 2018. They replied that they do not offer a Master Food Preservers course, and have no plans to do so in the future. They do, however, offer a Master Gardeners Program. Abigail Snyder to Randal Oulton. 19 June 2018. Email on file.
Other Similar Certifications
Other countries don’t seem to offer anything like this certification. They only offer full multi-year full-time degrees to people who want to work professionally in the commercial canning industry.
That being said, there are at least two other seemingly similar training opportunities out there:
Tilth: Certified Food Preserver  “Another organization that’s taking on the business of teaching people to safely can is Seattle Tilth, a gardening education group that is now offering a Master Food Preserver Course. Extension offices stopped offering Master Food Preserver courses in Western Washington, and Seattle Tilth got permission to use the term, and offer its own certification. A pilot course last year was successful.” Halloran, Amy. Preserving the Art of Canning Safely at Home. Seattle, Washington: Food Safety News. 26 April 2011. Accessed March 2015. Note that sometime after 2011, however, Seattle Tilth changed the name of the course to “Certified Food Preserver.”
Background information about the program
The University Cooperative Extension Services offer the Master Food Preserver programs through state or county-run offices. Elizabeth Andress, head of the National Center for Home Food Preservation, was interviewed about the program:
Extension sees a master program as volunteer development,” explained Elizabeth Andress. “In exchange for this intensive training and constant updating and education, we consider the people we train as volunteers who will then give something back to Extension, whether it be manning exhibits, writing newspaper columns, taking phone calls in the office or whatever.” Andress sees the expectations of the master programs as one of a kind, in that the volunteers are invested in sharing their information and developing community knowledge on the subject. She understands why, because of budget constraints, many extension offices are dropping their Master Food Preservers certification programs.
“You can’t run a Master Food Preserver program in your state if you don’t have the expertise to back it up and answer people’s questions and train them appropriately,” she said. Her state has 159 counties, but only 35 family and consumer science agent positions serving them.
“I have lots of individuals calling me, (and saying) our extension office no longer offers Master Food Preserver, or there’s no agent in our county, so I’m teaching classes, which I think is great and shows the interest,” said Andress. “Sometimes I’m a little bit concerned about what they’re teaching because obviously, me being in the job I’m in, I really care that people teach the best practices with some research-based recommendations and don’t just proliferate what people did 80 years ago.”  Halloran, Amy. Preserving the Art of Canning Safely at Home. Seattle, Washington: Food Safety News. 26 April 2011. Accesssed March 2015.
History of the Master Food Preserver Program
The Master Food Preserver program started in the second half of the 1970s. Washington State was offering it by 1976.
“Building on the success of the Master Gardener program, the Master Food Preserver program began in Washington State in the mid-1970s alongside the back-to-the-Earth movement and a renewed interest in preserving homegrown foods. For many, canning skills had been lost with the rise of packaged foodstuffs; extension offices were overwhelmed with hundreds of daily telephone calls from people seeking information. As a result, a curriculum was written and tested, training volunteers in two Washington counties to teach others how to preserve food in a safe and delicious manner.” Pottle, Renee. Become a Master Food Preserver. GRIT Magazine. Topeka, Kansas: Ogden Publications. May / June 2019. Accessed October 2020 at https://www.grit.com/food/kitchen-techniques/master-food-preservation-zm0z19mjzhoe
Pennsylvania joined the program in 1988, under the direction of Dr Gerald Kuhn, who also pioneered the first USDA Complete Guide.
In the late 1990s, many areas cancelled the program owing to lack of interest: “In 1997, the LA County program had just nine students; citing lack of interest, the University of California Cooperative Extension office canceled the program.”  Reinhardt, Christianna. Master Food Preservers: Getting Canned. KCET News. 10 October 2011. Accessed March 2015.
The Master Food Preservers program has since been revived in some areas in pace with the revived interest in home canning.
In Colorado, it’s been called ” Master Food Safety Advisor” since 2006.
The Los Angeles program was revived independently as Slow Food Preservers Los Angeles, still adhering to Master Food Preserver guidelines.
Busch, Mary. Success Stories: Preserving with Confidence. Colorado State University Cooperative Extension. April 2011.
Halloran, Amy. Preserving the Art of Canning Safely at Home. Seattle, Washington: Food Safety News. 26 April 2011.
Reinhardt, Christianna. Master Food Preservers: Getting Canned. KCET News. 10 October 2011.
|↑1||National Center for Home Food Preservation. Frequently Asked General Preservation Questions. Accessed March 2015.|
|↑2||Sue Mosbacher, UCCE Master Food Preservers Program Representative, Central Sierra and Sacramento, to Healthy Canning. October 2019.|
|↑3||Accessed January 2019 at https://extension.wsu.edu/clark/healthwellness/foodpreservation/master-food-preservers/ and https://extension.wsu.edu/clark/healthwellness/foodpreservation/master-food-preservers/|
|↑4||Abigail Snyder to Randal Oulton. 19 June 2018. Email on file.|
|↑5||“Another organization that’s taking on the business of teaching people to safely can is Seattle Tilth, a gardening education group that is now offering a Master Food Preserver Course. Extension offices stopped offering Master Food Preserver courses in Western Washington, and Seattle Tilth got permission to use the term, and offer its own certification. A pilot course last year was successful.” Halloran, Amy. Preserving the Art of Canning Safely at Home. Seattle, Washington: Food Safety News. 26 April 2011. Accessed March 2015. Note that sometime after 2011, however, Seattle Tilth changed the name of the course to “Certified Food Preserver.”|
|↑6||Halloran, Amy. Preserving the Art of Canning Safely at Home. Seattle, Washington: Food Safety News. 26 April 2011. Accesssed March 2015.|
|↑7||Pottle, Renee. Become a Master Food Preserver. GRIT Magazine. Topeka, Kansas: Ogden Publications. May / June 2019. Accessed October 2020 at https://www.grit.com/food/kitchen-techniques/master-food-preservation-zm0z19mjzhoe|
|↑8||Reinhardt, Christianna. Master Food Preservers: Getting Canned. KCET News. 10 October 2011. Accessed March 2015.|
I live in Texas and would LOVE to take a Master Canner certification course. I know several people in Texas that I communicate with that would love to take that course.
I went to the above link for Texas A&M and while they offer other food preserving courses, they do not list anything about a Master Canner certification. It is not on their page anywhere that I could see. Texas A&M, we need you! This should be right up your alley.
H, I’m Glenda Negron from Puerto Rico’s I’m FCS teacher in high school. I’m really interest to this program. If the specialist update the format of the course!!! Maybe an hybrid or online course of Master Food Preserver it would be a great idea! Many people will be interest. I’m the first one.
I think that would be a great idea!
I have not found any master classes in North Carolina. It would be great if there was an online class available. Wonder where people could send emails to, to show there is some interest?
The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service has offered a Food Preservation Educator program since 2016, based on the Master Preserver curriculum/concept but without required volunteer service. Because many of our communities are geographically remote, we either offer the course in person to specific communities, or online through a hybrid course called Preserving Alaskaʼs Bounty. The course includes online materials and assignments and six 3-hour Zoom classes. The course can be taken for personal skill building (and fun!), or a participant can take an exam at the end to become a Food Preservation Educator. People can join from anywhere in Alaska or the US (or the world!), but most of the foods preserved will have an Alaska grown (cold climate vegetable crops) and wild harvest focus (berries, fish, venison, etc.).
Thank you Sarah, great to know! We will post to our Facebook page. Is there a website link for more information including sign up that we can give people?
There is also a program at the University of Idaho. They go by Master Food Safety Advisors.
Thank you for the heads up. Added to list.
ALoha, Just to let you know that Hawaii Master Food Preservers started in 2012, in 2020 we formed our own 501c3 after spun off from Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers Group. HMFP was never a part of Univ, of Hawaii as they had now interest although I write extension publications for them. Still the Master Food Preserver program is essential to Hawaii, Or Dept of Health has a number of different requirements than the national averages, like 4.2 pH instead of 4.6
We have our own kitchen in Kona where we are based but have taught the 8 day class on 5 other island locations,
feel free to contact us at mfphawaii @ gmail.com
Hi. Would you happen to know if any classes are offered in Indiana? Doesn’t look like the one on this has been updated since 2010 and my extention says they do not know.
https://ag.purdue.edu/department/foodsci/food-preservation.html There is a qualtrics form on this page that you can add your email to
Is there an online master food preserver program? I live in Missouri and would to love to take the program.
We have not heard of one. If someone has, maybe they’ll see your comment and let you / us know.
Just received registration info from University of Nevada: Master Food Preserver online course. Their latest one runs twice a week via ZOOM, January-February 2022, 2 hour sessions, Tues. and Thurs. Jan 11-Feb8. The email came from Eventbrite. The course is free
The link for Montana takes you to Arizona state university? Any idea if these classes exist in Montana or who to ask?
The Montana link has gone bad, so it’s removed now. Montana seems to offer instead a “Master Family and Consumer Sciences” program, but with no canning component? https://masterfcsvolunteerprogram.info/
Where in Ky or southern Ind are there canning centers to teach canning
Is there a Program in South Carolina
We’re not aware of one though there was talk of one in 2013, but contact Clemson to see.
Please let me know if there are any canning classes in SC
Master Preserver Program in South Florida?
I am interested in taking the Master Food Preserver course in NYC. Where can I obtain info?
Can someone just come over to my house and teach me? I’ll pay them well. I live in IL
Are you aware of any canning and preserving courses in the metro Atlanta area? If not, is there a place to start looking? I found nothing at my local extention office. Thanks
I find it interesting – and sad – that the state of MA has no Master Food Perserver courses listed. The closest state appears to be ME.
ISO a master food preserver or equivalent program in Minnesota?
Any recommendations would be appreciated. Thank you
I’ve tried asking, but no one seems to know — that may not be a good sign. Try contacting the Extension’s Food safety department via the information on this page: https://www.extension.umn.edu/food/food-safety/contact/ . Good luck!
Kim did you e we find the info? I’m onterested.
Would love one in North Carolina
Do you offer the course online? Or is there a course available in Puerto Rico?
I would love to learn more about canning and teach others as well.
I do offer baking, plastic canvas and other courses
Hi Jennifer, try contacting the extension service at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez ( https://www.uprm.edu/cms/index.php/page/1036 ) and see what they can tell you.
Dept. Agriculture Cooperative Extension in PR does not offer courses, nor do they have any people to teach canning. I am going to each Canning at the Depto. Arte y Cultura y Turismo de Lajas, PR February 04, 2019. Contact them – leave a message and I can help you.