Fermentation Fest

Photo by Jeremy Mundth

On a fall drive through the beautiful hills and farmland north of Madison, you find a tractor with a trailer and musicians playing to anyone who stops. Welcome to Fermentation Fest! Those in the know converge on Sauk County to experience this festival’s eclectic blending of food, music, art, farming, and ecology.

The Wormfarm Institute, creator and host of the Farm/Art DTour and Fermentation Fest, is an award-winning organization with the mission to integrate culture and agriculture. Founded in 2000, the Institute works to build a sustainable future for both agriculture and the arts by fostering links between people and the land. Wormfarm’s work brings together farming, ecology, and the arts to rekindle our culture and enhance the economic possibilities of our region while celebrating its unique natural and human history.

by Jeremy Mundth

Reedsburg serves as ground zero for Fermentation Fest 2015 (October 2–11) with the Reedsburg Area Chamber of Commerce serving as the Fest’s headquarters and starting point for the Farm/Art DTour, an approximately 50-mile circuit. Bike or drive the route, which leads you to surprising and engaging art installations, food farm stands, musicians playing at temporary bandstands, and other pop-up surprises. Visitors can get a cue sheet listing the key turns, stops, and installations along the route, and it also includes mileage and additional information.

Food Chain stops feature artist-built mobile farm stands (Roadside Culture Stands) with vendors offering an array of local products to be experienced in the moment or later at home. Artists from around the country create the Art Work installations distributed along the route; works are selected for their artistic excellence, visual impact, and ability to engage. Pasture Performances happen on unconventional stages along DTour route. Visitors can experience music, dance, and dramatic interpretation, along with storytelling on Saturdays and Sundays of the tour. Farm Forms, embodying the artistic playfulness inspired by the Fest, turn your head. These locally inspired installations, including a straw bale castle, colored silos, and fence weavings, appear courtesy of local farmers, landowners, and community organizations along the route.

Photo by Jeremy Mundth

On a more stationary note, workshops featuring anything that can be fermented take place in downtown Reedsburg throughout the 10 days of the Fest. You can learn about brewing beer or wine, or choose a workshop on pickles, chocolate, hard cider, kombucha (a fermented drink of sweetened black or green tea), beekeeping, yogurt making, tempeh, sauerkraut, or bread making. To make sure you are not disappointed, advance registration is encouraged for the workshops.

In 2015, a new DTour route will be unveiled. It will run in a southern loop from Reedsburg, including North Freedom, White Mound County Park, and Loganville. In the past, bike riders have had the option of biking the entire or partial DTour route. Stay tuned for touring options as the organizers provide a complete schedule and self-guided tour map.

Beyond Boundaries

Photo by Jeremy Mundth

Canoe, kayak, or bike. During Fermentation Fest, Beyond Boundaries provides bike services for the DTour, and they offer a catered fall paddle for canoes and kayaks the last Saturday of the Fest. Enjoy the beauty of the countryside and fall colors from the Baraboo River. The paddle ends near Third Castle, a distinct sandstone outcrop, where staff lay out a sumptuous picnic made up of locally sourced and prepared goodies for participants. The event comes to a close around a bonfire at sunset. Advance reservations are required.

Year-round, Beyond Boundaries provides canoe and kayak rentals and a shuttle service to the river. They also provide bike rentals for exploring the region and the 400 State Trail. They even offer multi-modal adventures where you can bike one way and paddle the other. Beyond Boundaries can be found in Wonewoc in a historic old mill building near the Baraboo River and right on the 400 State Trail. In addition to their rental services, they have a bike shop.

400 State Trail

Bike, hike, or walk. Running between Reedsburg and Elroy, the 400 State Trail could be your entry to a grand bike tour that reaches all the way to the Mississippi (the 101 State Trail System). Or it could be a great addition to visiting Sauk County during Fermentation Fest. The trail parallels the Baraboo River, one of the longest stretches of restored rivers in the country. Visitors enjoy wetlands, sandstone bluffs, rolling croplands, and pastures as the trail repeatedly crosses the river. The trail’s packed limestone surface, planked bridges, and use of the old railroad bed for the Chicago Northwestern ensures steady grades and a good riding surface.

Make it a Weekend

  • Parkview B&B in Reedsburg (parkviewbb.com) is a historic 1895 Queen Anne Victorian Bed & Breakfast with four bedrooms. It is one block from downtown Reedsburg, across the street from Reedsburg City Park.

  • September Farms B&B in LaValle (septemberfarms.com) has four bedrooms, and it overlooks Hemlock Lake, the 400 State Trail, and the Baraboo River Valley.

  • Pine Grove Park B&B in Reedsburg (pinegroveparkbb.com) features four separate guesthouses in 55 picturesque acres.

  • Mill House on Main B&B in LaValle (millhouseonmain.com) has seven themed rooms.

Learn more about Wormfarm Institute at (wormfarminstitute.org) and find additional details about Fermentation Fest 2015 at fermentationfest.com.

Liz Wessel is the owner of Green Concierge Travel, which has information for honeymoons and other ecotravel at greenconciergetravel.com.