A Wormfarm Institute Initiative
There’s something brewing in the crocks, kettles and jugs in Reedsburg, Wisconsin this October 2 – 11. If it can be cultured or fermented, you’ll sample it and learn about it at Fermentation Fest – A Live Culture Convergence!
Classes, Tastings and more
Each weekend, Reedsburg features a series of tastings, lectures and hands-on classes celebrating local abundance and making it last. From cheese making techniques and home-crafted beer secrets to yogurt and pickling made simple, the Live Culture Convergence has it all!
Authors, chefs, bakers, scientists, chocolatiers, and cheesemakers will provide plenty of food for thought. Over twenty classes will be held by experts on topics from fermented vegetables and hot sauces, to chocolate and coffee fermentation. Attendees will learn take-home skills, enjoy samples, and experience hands-on what fermented foods have to offer.
The New Farm/Art DTour
The Farm/Art DTour is a 50-mile self-guided backroads tour by car, bike or buggy through the beautiful, unglaciated hills and valleys of Sauk County that carries over the full 10-day event. This year, the route for the DTour is changing, highlighting a new area of Sauk County’s beautiful working lands and natural landscapes.
The DTour is punctuated by temporary art installations and artist-built mobile Roadside Culture Stands selling fresh, locally grown produce. You’ll also find Field Notes (rural culture education sites), Farm Forms (creations made by farmers, area businesses and community groups), Pasture Performances and more!
New things are bubbling up every day that are not included on the map. Keep your eyes peeled for “rogue installations” and pop-up stops.
– an essay by Matthew Fluharty
“It is significant that the common image of the country is now an image of the past, and the common image of the city an image of the future. That leaves, if we isolate them, an undefined present.”
– Raymond Williams, The Country and the City
When I was a boy, growing up in the coalfields of eastern Ohio, I would often ask my grandparents to take me on a drive to the railroad tracks. In the spring and summer especially, when my parents were working long hours on the farm, I’d find myself alongside the tracks peering in each direction for trains. I’ve since learned that other rural-born folks have shared this childhood fascination, and for a similar reason: while we were elated by the event of a train passing, we were equally captivated by how that simple combination of tracks and ties formed a pathway to other towns, other cities, that we could only imagine. We may have been in a small town in Appalachia, but we were connected.
In my work as an artist, writer, and director of Art of the Rural, I’ve tried to keep reaching for that sense of relationship I felt on those Ohio Valley afternoons, when I’d hold my grandpa’s hand and look into the distance for the coal trains. It seems like so many of our most valuable physical and intellectual journeys begin on our local, familial ground and then, as the miles and associations gain velocity, that landscape is met with new points of connection, new exchanges, a new way to talk about the path back home. After enough of these excursions beyond the front yard, we have a sense of what words like community and region could most fully mean.
The memories of those first important journeys are powerfully revived when I travel to Reedsburg for Fermentation Fest. In thinking about Raymond Williams’ call-to-arms above, I feel like our time here each fall is a chance for visitors like myself to connect rural and urban anew, but to also be moved by how our future, as much as our common past, can be traced to the communities and farmland of Sauk County. Each year the Farm/Art DTour—by turns inventive, reflective and humorous—brings that thought process to life as we move through the landscape. Like the poet John Keats said of his own creative process, we must be “capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts” if we want to make great art or discover our most powerful ideas.
For instance, last year, out of so many striking and playful installations and Farm Forms, I found that quality in Drift, a piece by Chicago-based artists Sara Black, Amber Ginsburg and Lia Rousset that combined ecological and community engagement into one of those quintessential “what the heck is that?” Fermentation Fest moments. Their large, architectural flatboat resembled a glacier and was moored alongside an inlet of Lake Redstone. As we walked onboard we were reminded that we were standing and floating within the unique Driftless region. Through talking with the artists and tasting their “fermented” ice cubes made with arctic glacial water infused with local herbs, I discovered yet another way we are connected to places and histories far from home: rural and urban, past and future, inextricably linked.
Along the DTour, and throughout the Fest’s events, we are encouraged to actively connect the dots. Last fall, it was a short drive from Drift to a local tavern and a room full of revelers from across the Midwest region enjoying burgers and, of course, some glorious Wisconsin brews. New friends from Sauk County, Milwaukee and Chicago were saddled up at the bar next to each other, food, drink and shared experience providing common ground, the kind of social fermentation that builds and sustains our rural and urban communities.
While this was only my particular experience, I took part in exchanges that illuminate how interconnected we all are. I am reminded here of Grant Wood, one of our most famous American “regionalist” artists and creator of the iconic American Gothic painting. Maybe it’s time to revisit what it means for us all to be a part of a region, whether we are talking about the Driftless, the Midwest, or a more expansive sense of our American landscape.
Grant Wood once famously said that he had to go to Paris to understand Iowa. In thinking about all the experiences, conversations and discoveries we will have during this live culture convergence, I believe we can adapt the artist’s imperative: perhaps we need to go to Sauk County to understand Chicago, Madison, or Minneapolis. I’d go even further, and say that we all need to take such real and figurative DTours across the rural landscape. We need to get a little lost. We need to look down the tracks, look down those country roads, to discover where we’ve been—and where we might go next.
Matthew Fluharty is the Founder and Executive Director of Art of the Rural, facilitator of its Middle Landscape projects, and a member of the M12 collective.
Matthew’s poetry and essays have been widely published in the US and abroad and are present in the field-establishing compendium A Decade of Country Hits: Art on the Rural Frontier. His collaborations with M12 have recently been featured at the Santa Fe Art Institute.
Matthew holds a PhD in English and American Literature from Washington University in Saint Louis, where he wrote on the concept of “rural modernity” across transatlantic art and literature.
Matthew is the son of a fifth-generation farming family from the Ohio Valley. He lives and works in Winona, Minnesota. He is proud to serve on the Board of Directors of The Wormfarm Institute.