A golden October morning begins...
with a slight chill, ideal for a ride in the country by bike, car or horse-drawn wagon. Today, hay bales are sculptures. Fields are performance stages. The music of fiddles harmonizes with the moos of cows. Thousands of people come from down the road a piece or hundreds of miles away, to be amazed at the creation of artists and the daily artistry of farmers, to be entertained, enlightened and fed, to catch a glimpse of the culture within and inspired by agriculture.
This is Fermentation Fest: a free, multifaceted food and farming event that celebrates live culture in all its forms. Folks come from across the Midwest to learn about fermented foods & beverages, catch a pasture performance, book reading, or rotational grazing demo, participate in interactive workshops, and enjoy the abundance of harvest season in Southwest Wisconsin.
Fermentation Fest is an annual "live culture convergence" that celebrates the abundance and transformation of harvest season in Southwest Wisconsin.
Every other year, the main event of Fermentation Fest is the biennial Farm/Art DTour, which invites folks on a 50-mile drive through the working farmlands of Sauk County.
Fermentation Fest began in 2010 when Wormfarm hosted a traveling Smithsonian exhibit at the Woolen Mill Gallery in downtown Reedsburg, WI. Key Ingredients: America by Food invited us to explore our regional footways and traditions including fermentation.
Reedsburg was the trailhead for Fermentation Fest from 2010-2019.
In 2020, when the Farm/Art DTour route moved to southern Sauk County, the historic Witwen Park became the main hub for fermentation demos, music performances, participatory activities and community engagement.
From 2011-2019, we hosted about 40 classes every year in downtown Reedsburg. Folks learned how to ferment everything from bread to chocolate, sauerkraut to cheese, beer to mezcal to kefir.
In 2020, when the pandemic hit, we safely mounted the Farm/Art DTour because the event has social distancing built in, but we had to cancel our usual roster of classes. In 2021, we experimented at Witwen Park to bring back a select handful of fermentation demos & tastings. We expect to do something similar in 2022, but stay tuned.
The biennial Farm/Art DTour returns to Fermentation Fest in fall 2022.
With trailheads in Plain and Sauk City, this self-guided drive through Wisconsin’s working farmland is punctuated by site-responsive artworks, local food markets, roadside poetry, and educational Field Notes. The 50-mile agri/cultural excursion highlights connections between the arts and agriculture, and brings people together from across the rural-urban continuum to celebrate the land and those who care for it.
Revisit the 2021 Fest
In fall 2021, we did things a little differently by collaborating with researchers at the Grassland 2.0 project to host a special "grassland edition" of Fermentation Fest.