As farmers around Reedsburg harvest crops this fall, professional artists from around the country, regional performers and community members will transform the working landscape into a lively, ephemeral outdoor Farm/Art DTour for the fourth-annual Fermentation Fest—A Live Culture Convergence, Oct. 4–13.
Meanwhile, in this gigabyte city of 9,000 people in rural south-central Wisconsin — 55 miles northwest of Madison — chefs, scientists, brewers and cheesemakers will offer 44 classes and tastings about fermented foods, farming and the rural renaissance.
The multifaceted 10-day food and farming festival is "an opportunity for rural and urban visitors to explore in new ways the beautiful land that sustains us," said event organizer Donna Neuwirth, executive director of the Wormfarm Institute.
She anticipates the Fest will attract 15,000 people from the upper Midwest and beyond this year, after a record crowd of 12,000 from at least nine states attended in 2013, the event's third year.
"Interest around the country is growing, for this event, for site-responsive public art and a renewed connection to where our food is grown," she said. "This is a celebration of live culture in all its forms, from dance to yogurt, poetry to sauerkraut."
People are primarily traveling for the Fest's signature feature, the Farm/Art DTour, a free and interactive, 50-mile self-guided drive through working farmland punctuated by temporary art installations, pasture performances, field notes about agriculture, roadside stands and roadside poetry. Discover the DTour by car, buggy or bike (cue sheets and outfitters are available).
Expect to see giant straw animals, glowing corn cribs, crocheted plastic leaves engulfing a farmhouse, a mini circus wagon and sideshow encampment, and much more.
Some stops welcome visitors to participate or investigate — a labyrinth of corn to meander, a silage bag to paint and the Taste Lab to investigate fermentation biology with microscopes, tasting and discussing. A large floating sculpture comes ashore on weekends to serve spring infusions made from glacial water and local produce.
As attendees wind through the natural amphitheaters of this driftless area, they'll encounter dancers, singers and original music performed, such as the third-annual D-Composition, a Concert on Oct. 11 at 4 p.m., where music mimics biology. Mixed in are a homemade wine social; a quilt show with breakfast; fresh fry bread and tacos; gourmet sliders; pickles; cheese; chocolate; a chili supper; and more.
Before departing on the DTour, stop at the Reedsburg Area Chamber of Commerce to get a free 20-page event guide, DTour driving map and the daily specials of performances and food. The event guide is also available throughout the state.
Downtown Reedsburg hosts 44 weekend classes and tasting events about fermented food and drink (kimchi, yogurt, hard cider, chocolate, cheese, beer, bread, etc.), preserving the harvest, farming and more. Register for these online by Sept. 28 at www.fermentationfest.com.
Kirsten Shockey, John Greenler and Matthew Fluharty will offer interactive classes about fermenting food and energy, and rural art projects. Shockey of Applegate, OR, is a homesteader, fermenter, teacher and author of the just-released "Fermented Vegetables: Creative Recipes For Fermenting 80 Vegetables and Herbs."She'll conduct four classes Oct. 4–5 about safely fermenting seasonally available produce and forbs into krauts, preserves, pastes and relishes.
Greenler is the education and outreach director of the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. On Oct. 11, he will discuss moving beyond corn and grain to make ethanol by fermenting plant materials into renewable energy as fossil fuel alternatives. Join his lively presentation to try fermenting fuel.
Fluharty, director of the Art Of The Rural, joins the Fest this year to celebrate the inaugural "The Year Of The Rural Arts." On Oct. 12, he'll lead a panel discussion on thriving rural communities with Sarah Lloyd, dairy farmer, rural sociologist and Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative general manager; Curt Meine, conservationist, author and Aldo Leopold Foundation senior fellow; Stan Gruzsynski, U.S. Department of Agriculture Wisconsin director of rural development; and Jamie Bennett, director of ArtPlace America. This free presentation will highlight a new wave of contemporary artistic and social projects in rural communities throughout America that illustrate effective placemaking strategies along the rural-urban continuum.
Visit www.fermentationfest.com to view images of previous DTours; register for classes and tastings by Sept. 28; and find details to plan your trip.
Connect with Fermentation Fest on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FermentationFest and on Twitter @FermFest.
Fermentation Fest is an initiative of the Wormfarm Institute, a nonprofit organization that integrates culture and agriculture in Reedsburg. It collaborates with Sauk County UW-Extension, the Reedsburg Area Chamber Of Commerce, public partners and sponsors to host this celebration of farming, fermentation and culture.