MCC photo/Diana Williams

2017-2018 MCC Mobile Cannery crew (from left): Lucas Hiebert, from Goessel, Kansas; Carsten Wiebe, from Neuland, Paraguay; and Michael Doerksen, from Fernheim, Paraguay; and Matthew Blosser from Goshen, Indiana, is helping temporarily.

MCC’s mobile meat cannery is now making its way across the U.S. and Canada, meeting volunteers who prepare cans of turkey, beef, chicken and pork. The cans are then shipped domestically and around the world to our partners, providing essential nutrients where meat is hard to purchase.

In total, these 32 canning sites host over 30,000 people a year who volunteer to cut, fill, weigh, wash and label every can of high-quality meat. But did you know that it takes around $15,000 per day to host the mobile cannery?

“It is quite a bit of work to prepare a location to host the mobile cannery, and the local committees do an amazing job every year to make these events happen,” says John Hillegass, MCC canning and trucking manager.

For the 2017-2018 canning season, several Mennonite churches in Lewis County, New York decided that they wanted to bring the mobile cannery back to Lowville, NY. The community previously hosted the MCC mobile cannery in the 1960’s and were eager to restart canning efforts in the area.

Hillegass states, “Since the mobile cannery has some historical connections in the Lowville area, and there is significant interest in MCC's work, it was an obvious choice to restart this canning location.”

To raise the funds necessary to bring the mobile cannery to Lowville, Mennonite churches in the area organized a bike ride on Saturday, September 9. The cool, fall day saw 60 riders pedal their way through Lewis County with 50-, 23- and 7-mile ride options. Four women also did a 7-mile walk.

Thirteen riders line up to start the 50-mile bike ride in Lewis County, New York. Photo/Geneva Virkler

The 50-mile ride started and finished at Croghan Mennonite Church in Croghan, NY. At the end of the day, all of the intrepid riders enjoyed a free dinner at Naumburg Mennonite Church in Castorland, which was also open to the community.

In total, the ride raised over $10,000, which was more than the organizers expected. While each canning site fundraises differently-- from asking for donations from local congregations to hosting banquets, breakfasts or other meals--organizing a bike ride was something out of the ordinary.

But what made this ride even more unique was that one of the long-distance riders was 85 years young. Aiming for the 50-mile ride, Alton Virkler ended up finishing 47.5 miles in 4.5 hours. An avid biker, Virkler has also participated in bike rides to raise money for MCC in 2005 and 2013 in the Finger Lakes region of New York.

Alton Virkler, 85, at the end of biking 47.5 miles. Photo/Geneva Virkler

A retired dairy farmer, Virkler has been biking for over 30 years. His wife, Geneva Virkler, says, “He enjoys meeting all those who share his common interest in biking as well as being able to assist MCC in their many projects.”

MCC is grateful for the many ways volunteers engage with MCC’s mobile meat cannery—from the local canning committees who organize all the site logistics, to those who take part in local fundraisers, to the volunteers who work directly with the canning process.

Hillegass reflects, “It is always a privilege to engage an incredible amount of volunteers across the U.S. and Canada as we provide quality canned meat to those in need all over the world.”


MCC’s mobile meat cannery will be in Lowville, New York, April 12-13, 2018.

For more information on the 2017-2018 canning season, and to find out when they’re going to be in a town near you, visit canning.mcc.org.