Fermentation Fest: A Live Culture Convergence

Nameplate for Fermentation Fest

Turn on the T.V. or page through any number of magazines and you’ll find that Wisconsin is cultivating a prestigious culinary scene. From James Beard award winners to specialty food entrepreneurs, our beloved Badger State is taking on an epicurean eminence that goes far beyond beer, cheese, sausage and fish fries.

Knowing this, you can rightly assume Wisconsin’s putting on some sumptuous food festivals. Among them, Fermentation Fest is literally bubbling its way to the top.

Definition of culture shed, by Jay Salinas, Wormfarm InstituteNow in its fourth year, Fermentation Fest is a 10-day celebration of the arts, farming and fermented food. There are how-to classes for the ancient art of fermentation. There are tasting events that expand one’s senses beyond the homogeneity of today’s grocery stores. There are musicians, poets and storytellers. And, if that’s not enough, there is art—how does a 50-mile self-guided Farm/Art D’Tour through the breathtaking farmlands of
Sauk County grab you? Think meandering country roads…rolling unglaciated hills…October, in all its autumn glory. As organizers define it, Fermentation Fest is a celebration of the “cultureshed” of Wisconsin’s Driftless area.

Fermentation Fest is the brainchild of Donna Neuwirth and Jay Salinas, and their Wormfarm Institute, a non-profit organization fostering arts and agriculture. Supported in part through the National Endowment for the Arts and ArtPlace America, Sauk County is the only rural county to receive art funding, says Donna. The fest is also hosted by the Sauk County UW Extension and the Reedsburg Chamber of Commerce, and sponsored by a multitude of businesses and organizations. Yes, Fermentation Fest is truly a convergence of culture.

So this year I’m super excited to be part of Fermentation Fest. My dear friend, Ann Foley, who designs for The Creative Company and Madison’s Brat Fest—another great food event—recommended me for doing the Fermentation Fest newsletter. Thank you, Ann!

And thank you, Donna! I’m honored to be working on this project and loving the time I get to spend in beautiful Sauk County!

Hey, make sure you sign up to get the latest on Fermentation Fest’s schedule and registration!

 

Why Christians Should Celebrate Earth Day 2014

Moss growing on log in Glacial Drumlin Bike Trail, Jefferson Co., WisconsinToday is Earth Day and here’s why Christians should be part of this annual celebration. And even though our main focus is eternal life in heaven, here’s why we should practice mindful stewardship during our time here on earth—not just on Earth Day, but every day.

God’s Creation

In the Bible book of Genesis, chapters 1 and 2 tell us the earth and everything in it were created by God. The earth is God’s masterpiece, both in form and function. We wouldn’t dream of littering an artist’s work in a museum with garbage or toxic waste. Certainly God’s work—his earth—deserves this same respect.

Granddaughter looking up to a beautiful blue skyGod’s Assignment to Us

I realize we humans can’t determine the fate of our planet any more than we can the length of our lives. But we can take responsibility for both their quality and care. After all, this is what God entrusts to us when, in Genesis 1:28, he commands “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it.”

I think of this as my husband and I enjoy nature with our granddaughter. Shouldn’t she and every other precious child be able to lay in God’s green grass and look up to his beautiful sky without fear of chemicals and pollution? Shouldn’t they have natural food to eat that won’t harm them or the children they may someday bring forth?

God has given us the job of being caretakers of his earth—for ourselves, for our children and for their children. Such a high calling this is!

Spring blossoms against Fachwerk BarnAppreciation to God

When God offered us his gift of salvation, he precursored it with a temporary stay here on earth. Given the state of our sinfulness, we certainly deserve accommodations much worse. Yet our Lord, in his great love, lets us live in this beautiful world. Wow, we are so blessed! The more I travel, the more I learn of the environment and our human body, the more I strive to live naturally—the more I do any of these things—I am so much more amazed by the graciousness and intelligence of God’s design.

In Psalm 139:14, David writes, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” We owe God this same appreciation. We can show this by caring for everything and everyone he has created.

Sunset on Georgian Bay, Ontario, CanadaGlory to God

Some people are worried Earth Day has taken a paganistic twist. Others feel we’ve allowed “saving the environment” to become our modern day idol. Well, instead of automatically denouncing this annual celebration, why don’t we Christians just speak out? On Earth Day and every day, let’s praise God with our voice and glorify him with our actions. Let’s be good stewards of his earthly masterpiece.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God,” 1 Corinthians 10:31.

Goodman Center is More Than Fancy

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A few weeks ago we attended a fundraising dinner for the Goodman Community Center in Madison. I have to mention the promotional pieces they put out for the event because they did such a super job.

Each of the pieces was spot on—uniformity of branding, educational information, and a “fancy-filled” style. Madison, by nature, is a casual town, but when the invitation uses key words like “fancy” (four times), “investment,” “secure future” and “sponsorship,” you know not only should you dress up, but you also need to bring your checkbook. That is, after all, the objective of a fundraising dinner.

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Graphic design and copywriting aside, I was excited to get inside this building!

According to its website, the Center’s architecture “demonstrates a classic factory form characterized by an abundance of ground floor windows and two rows of high central clerestory windows, maximizing natural light and ventilation.” Built in the turn of the last century, the 30,000-square-foot building has a diverse industrial history.

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In 2005, with the help of local philanthropists, the Center bought the building and began a complete renovation. Today, it houses classrooms, art rooms, game rooms, a fitness center, a café run by teens training in the culinary arts, a food pantry and offices. A covered walkway connects the building to a newly built 12,000-square-foot gymnasium.

Isn’t the steel gantry shown above cool? Once part of an iron works operation, it now it forms a giant gazebo over the gardens and playground.

Inside the Goodman Community Center, Madison, WI

THIS  is why I wanted to see inside this building! Isn’t it beautiful?!

Eppstein Uhen Architects and Vogel Brothers Building Company, both of Madison, did the renovation. They mindfully considered environmentally friendly techniques and the building’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Inside the Goodman Community Center, Madison, WISo, yes, the dinner promotional pieces were well done. And, yes, the building is stunningly beautiful.

But here’s why the Goodman Center really shines:

Each day it provides food, educates young people, cares for older adults and supports the families of four Madison communities. As the Goodman Center says, it strengthens people’s lives.

GCC_5Now that the Goodman Center has room to expand in this wonderful building, it offers new and improved programs. Here are those they highlighted in their fancy-filled and well-designed dinner program:

  • Seed to Table: Gives at-risk students the chance to learn through an urban agriculture curriculum with hands-on propagating, planting, harvesting, preserving and cooking.
  • Dane County Nutrition Site: Fed 8,000 affordable meals to older adults in 2012.
  • Food Preservation Program: Teens preserve abundant local produce for the center’s food pantry customers.
  • Thanksgiving Basket Distribution: Distributed holiday meals to 2,600 families in 2012.
  • Parent Programs: Strengthen the link between parents, children, school and the Center.
  • Madison Empowering Responsibility in Teens (MERIT): Helps Madison teens make good decisions about their sexual health.
  • Vocationally Integrated Pathways (VIP): An alternative high school program where students earn credits through academics and work.
  • 5-Star Childcare (Young Star rating): Programs provide quality care to Madison’s youth.

 Want to support this caring organization? Check out their site here


 

Wednesday Webs: Summer’s Super Foods!

Dill growing in garden

This is such an exciting time of year. Each morning I go out to my garden and find the super food fairies have been hard at work during the night. We’ve had perfect garden weather so far—lots of rain a few weeks ago and now intensely hot sun. This beautiful dill is just biding it’s time, waiting for the pickles growing behind it to burst on to the scene. And they soon will. In just another week, we’ll be making dill pickles galore!

Visual communication is huge for marketing food. So are public relations, the media, and an overall emotional bond to delicacies we eat. Lately, I’ve found so much that supports this theory.

  • Here’s a case study for What We Eat and Why It Matters. Case studies are inordinately useful for managing the project, but they’re also educational for anyone looking to learn.

  • Earlier this month one of my favorite cheese companies, Crave Brothers, suffered a devastating blow when it had to voluntarily recall three of its specialty cheeses. This is devastating not only for them, but for the whole artisanal cheese industry. I’m watching with interest in how they handle this PR crisis (so far, I think they’ve done well). I’ve worked with owner Charles Crave in the past, and he and his family are wonderful people. I know they’ll come back better than ever. In fact, I’ve ramped up buying their mozzerella and mascarpone—oh, so very good!

  • Speaking of pickles, did you know Wisconsin has a Pickle Bill? It allows food entrepreneurs to sell certain home-canned foods without a license. Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of your own home-based food business? Be sure to check out your state’s Cottage Food Laws.

  • My client, Rock County Historical Society, is well into its year-long Breadbasket: Seed to Spoon Exhibit. It’s a fascinating celebration of the county’s culinary history!

Appreciating Artisanal Foods

basket of organic strawberries

While relishing the 10-year cheddar he received as a Father’s Day gift, my husband commented that he can only remember eating processed cheese as a kid.

Are you kidding? Ye, who has lived in America’s Dairyland all of thy days?

Truth is, back when we were growing up in the 1960-70s, food selections were much different than they are now. In some ways they were better. High fructose sugar and super-gluten weren’t major ingredients. Nor were the fruits and vegetables genetically modified and void of flavor.

On the other hand, nowadays some of our foods are actually better. As the dairy and strawberry days of June come to an end (wow, so fast!), I can’t help appreciating the culinary artisans we have now that we didn’t back then. Cheesemakers, like Chris Roelli of Shullsburg, WI, have moved beyond mass-production boredom and back to the traditional handcrafting of age-ripend cheese. Farmer’s markets and CSA farms, like Hillsong Ridge Farm, of Springfield, WI, get us out of the over-processed grocery stores and into cooking with locally grown fruits and vegetables. All in all, both food consumers and producers are much more sustenance savvy.

But consider this:

Creating quality food takes time and effort. The mouthwatering strawberries in that basket? Fresh-picked today and completely organic? Just saying that a lot of back-bending, manual labor went into producing them. They’re so worth it, but I can’t imagine doing this at a scale larger than I do for my family. Knowing this, I wonder about the work that goes into running a CSA. Or an organic bakery. Or pasture-raised pork. These food artisans certainly aren’t doing it for the money—we all know Americans don’t want to pay much for their food, after all.

Will the day come when these hardworking foodies simply get tired? Will they someday decide they need to make a more lucrative living? Is this just a passing culinary moment in time?

I sure hope not. What communication can we do to make sure this doesn’t happen?