Fermenting, Food, and Freedom

Last week, I went to Tennessee to learn about fermented foods. I came home with a deeper appreciation of not only food, but freedom itself and what it means in the twenty-first century.

The Workshop

The Fermentation Workshop is a five-day, intensive class held in Middle Tennessee and hosted by Sandor Katz (author of Wild Fermentation and other great books on the subject), in which we learned about and made roughly a dozen different fermented foods, from kefir to koji, vegetables to wine. There were about eight of us in the class from all ages and backgrounds. It didn’t take long for all of us to bond, as we shared a rebellious spirit (against the dead food products of the mainstream food industry), a love of real, living food, and a desire to improve our health and the health of our families and our communities. We got to take several field trips to neighbors and farms in the area and be among pastured livestock. The hills seem to roll on forever, and were painted with the dazzling colors of autumn. It was encouraging for this city boy to see vast expanses of real farmland, and gave me hope that other people not only care about what’s happening, but are doing something about it.

55 gallons of Radish-cabbage kraut!
Workshop attendees
Workshop attendees

The Distillery

A brand new distillery (only the sixth in the state of Tennessee) is being built near where the workshop was held. They will sell whiskey and moonshine (yes, it is legal and regulated). The operations manager gave us a tour, well, of where things will be when it’s all set up. As an entrepreneur, it’s always exciting for me to see a new business just as it’s being launched. The owners had just gotten their license from the state and so were busy moving the equipment into place and figuring out the process flow (corn goes in– shine comes out!) One of the best determinants of prosperity in a free society is how easy it is for someone to start up a business. It was encouraging to see this spirit (pun intended) alive and well! They plan to start selling their distilled goods in March of 2012.

The Biodynamic Farm

One of our field trips during the workshop took us to Long Hungry Creek Farm, a biodynamic farm run by the Barefoot Farmer, Jeff Poppen. There we picked cabbage, turnips, and radishes, in order to make a large quantity of sauerkraut. Jeff plants radishes as a cover crop, and we were allowed to take as much as we want (we got about 600 lbs total!) Afterwards, Sandor held a mini-workshop on fermenting vegetables at the farm, and we spent the afternoon at the farmhouse. Throughout the day, folks from all over the area came in and out. It was an inspiring sense of community and I was grateful to be invited. One bit of unwelcome news for the farm: a large poultry producer is building a factory-coop upstream and not very far from the farm. I wish LHC Farm well in their efforts to protect their land from the effects of being downstream and downwind from a factory farm. It’s an unenviable position to be sure.

Workshop at Long Hungry Creek

The Sanctuary

We were invited to a Sunday potluck at a communal-living house in the area. (We made an Asian-style salad from, you guessed it, radishes and cabbage!) It was an old (the original house in which we ate was built at least 150 years ago), warm and welcoming place, full of people with different backgrounds and stories. The community is fairly self-sustaining– it has goats, gardens, and runs on solar power. We ate like kings and were grateful to Sandor for inviting us into this close-knit community.


I also got to drive through Memphis and decided to play tourist for the day. In addition to gorging ourselves at several restaurants along Beale Street, we went to two wonderful museums– the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum and the National Civil Rights Museum. In both, the visitor is taken through the struggles black Americans have endured for four centuries in order to become free.

The Conference

The icing on the cake was a detour to Dallas, where the Weston A. Price Foundation held its annual Wise Traditions conference. I’ve been a member of this great organization for a few years, but hadn’t planned on attending the conference. When a fellow fermenter from the workshop said she was driving there, I couldn’t resist the chance for a road trip!

Besides the amazing food (fermented veggies, pastured animals and products, raw milk and cheese, coconut oil, offal, etc.), I felt privileged to be among some of my favorite bloggers, newsmakers, and defenders of real food. These folks are true freedom fighters, standing up to bureaucratic thugs (who are in the pockets of Big Ag, Big Dairy and other crony-capitalist* industries) and bravely defending our right to produce and consume food as we see fit. I only got to stay for one day of the conference, but I learned much in that action packed day, and can’t wait to attend it next year when it’s in the Bay area (November 12-14, 2012 in Santa Clara, CA)! That which most impressed about the conference was the variety of attendees. There were homeschooling families, the Amish community, cattlemen and cattlewomen, entrepreneurs with small businesses, urban farmers, and neo-hippies (the last two which I consider myself a part), all of whom share a deep love for food, and for their individual liberty and way of life.

Fab Ferments selling their products at the conference

Every part of this trip was inspiring to remind me that none of us are not alone in our fight for individual rights and freedom, and that as Thomas Jefferson so eloquently put it, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” Carry on, freedom fighters!

*The term crony-capitalism refers to companies who get in bed with lobbyists, bureaucrats and politicians to game the system in order to unfairly protect their markets from competition. This is not the same thing as free-market capitalism, where consumers ultimately decide on winners and losers by voting with their dollars.


1 thought on “Fermenting, Food, and Freedom

  1. susanne la rosa

    What a wonderful journal of your trip! I felt like I was there with you and learned so much.

    Thank you.

Comments are closed.