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67 Merchants Row
Rutland, VT, 05701
United States

(802) 417-1528

Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL) promotes local food knowledge, production and market opportunities for farmers and community members throughout our region.

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Kombucha, Kimchi, Koji, Oh My: Vermont Fermentation Festival

Phil Gurley

By Janis McWayne

The Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL) is bubbling with excitement as we plan for the first annual Vermont Fermentation Festival.  The festival, sponsored by Real Pickles, is happening at Green Mountain College in Poultney, on April 13, 2013, from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. There will be plenty of excitement with speakers, local vendors, workshops, and a “culture swap.”

What’s fermentation you might ask?  I learned a lot about it while listening to Doug Flack give a talk titled “The Farmer as Primary Health Care Provider”, March 10th at the Rutland Natural Foods Market and I became even more excited about our festival.  From sauerkraut to sourdough, kombucha to kimchi, this festival will give you the reasons why, the how to, and the inspiration to start fermenting or at least to eat cultured foods.

Our speakers include Doug Flack, Ph.D., Sjon Velters, and Robert Luby, M.D. Fermentation vendors who are participating are Aqua Vitea, Butterworks Farm, Oak Knoll Goat Dairy, Plymouth Cheese, Rhapsody Natural Foods, Real Pickles, and Vermont Smoke and Cure. The workshops we have confirmed so far are Fermented Soda, Koji, Kombucha, Miso, Sauerkraut, Sourdough Bread, and Tempeh. Children are invited to participate in some of the workshops as well.

Got some culture to swap?   We will have scobys, sourdough, and who knows what else.  Kefir grains?   We’d love to see what you have!  What an amazing line-up, right? These lists are partial and vendors and workshop presenters are still signing on, so exciting.

There will also be educational tables with resources about vegetable fermentation, nutrition, cider, vinegar, and Japanese fermentation. Vendors will sell and share their products.

The process of fermentation, which preserves food and makes it more digestible, has been making a comeback on the local food scene.  I am a just now learning about the benefits. So many delicious foods can be fermented and the benefits to the environment and to health are phenomenal.

Fermentation is defined as the conversion of carbohydrates into preservative organic acids. Zymology or zymurgy is the science of fermentation. This means that the foods have active bacteria and contain enzymes symbiotic to our body’s flora. The healthful organisms remain living in our foods when we ferment and eat the food. A primary benefit of fermentation is the conversion of sugars and other carbohydrates into preservative organic acids, a few examples include; converting juice into wine, apples into cider, grains into beer, and carbohydrates into carbon dioxide to leaven bread. .

A few other benefits of fermented foods follow:

  • Nutrition: fermentation provides us with the opportunity to eat fresh, locally grown vegetables, rich in live nutrients, in the middle of winter; food remains live, microbial cultures create vitamins through conversion and they decrease or eliminate antinutrients (natural or synthetic compounds that interfere with the absorption of nutrients)
  • Digestion: promotes digestive health by supplying living cultures and healthy bacteria; healthful microorganisms in live foods breakdown nutrients into more easily digestible forms
  • Environment: decrease in cooking time and energy requirements; food is preserved naturally

Some examples of living and fermented food are:

  • Cheese and Yogurt (cultured milk)
  • Kefir (grains)
  • Kimchi (unpasteurized whey, cabbage, vegetables, and spices)
  • Kombucha (scoby, black or greentea, and sugar)
  • Mead (yeast and honey)
  • Tempeh (fermented soybeans)
  • Wine (yeast and fruit)

If you are anything like me, you might not even know what some of the above words mean. That is exactly why our fermentation festival is a valuable education opportunity. We all want to learn how to live and eat better to promote health, eat safe foods, and prevent disease.

We hope you will join us, and bring your family and friends. If you would like more information you can contact RAFFL at 802-417-1528, or any of the Vermont Fermentation Festival team members:

Elizabeth Theriault

Jordan Perkins

Janis McWayne

Leslie Silver

Check for updates online at or search for “Vermont Fermentation Festival” on Facebook and click the ‘events’ link.

Janis McWayne is a RAFFL Volunteer. She is a researcher and educator. She is learning to live healthfully in Vermont and to grow her own food.

Originally published in the Rutland Heraldh