I mean, it only makes sense. Wisconsin is the land of cheese, beer, pickles and great bread. It’s home to the architectural giant Frank Lloyd Wright and the legendary Georgia O’Keeffe, as well as actors William Defoe and Tyne Daily. It’s the dairy state, and home to hundreds of smaller-scale farms, including many growing grapes for wine and hops for brewing beer. Where else would you have Fermentation Fest?
Jay Salinas and his partner Donna Neuwirth think big and long. And they do that by connecting the dots between art and agriculture. Originally from Chicago, they became CSA farmers in 1995. After several years, they began exploring the links between urban and rural communities that go way beyond the food connection.
2000, they founded the Wormfarm Institute, a non profit that creates cultural events, supports local food systems, and runs an artist-in-residency program in conjunction with a working farm. According to their website, the Institute expands on the idea of sustainability to include the notion of a vibrant creative community in which to thrive.
Their innovative approach has been recognized with the 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Our Town Award, the 2010 Governor’s Award in Support of the Arts, and the 2008 Robert E. Gard Wisconsin Idea Award.
The Fermentation Fest idea arose over a year ago when Reedsburg hosted a Smithsonian exhibit called Key Ingredients: American by Food. The community prepared for the exhibit for over a year, and by the time Key Ingredients was ready to open, they realized they wanted to extend and expand upon the messages, collaborations and activities associated with the event. And so, Fermentation Fest was born.
The celebration includes hand-on classes, food sampling, chef demonstrations, art displays and Farm/Art Dtour, a 50-mile loop that features field installations by artists and farmers.