Report From The Santa Barbara Fermentation Festival

July 22nd, 2014 - filed under: The Food » Food and Health

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Last Saturday, Jeremy and I took wee Waits Rebhal to the Santa Barbara Fermentation Festival. And I have to admit, I wasn’t really sure what to expect with this event. I mean, Santa Barbara isn’t that big, so I wondered what size of “festival” our crunchy little community would actually be able to support. But I have to say . . . holy moly I was amazed!

This event was pure pleasure. Just absolute and abundant happy. We spent our entire day there, close to 5 hours, drinking in every last celebratory drop. There were farmers and hippies and families and bohemians and artisans and Average Joes, all coming together to celebrate the ancient art of culturing food. It was more than I expected, much much more, and now I can’t wait for next year’s event! Here’s how our day of good ol’ simple farm-style fun unfolded:


shoulder ride

My two main squeezies.


painted farm sign
Santa Barbara Fermentation Festival 10
santa barbara fermentation festival

First things first. Guys, there was a “frozen ferments” truck:

komucha popsickle truck
kombucha popsickle
Yes, that is a kombucha-berry popsicle. You better believe I’ll be working on my own version of this amazing treat, coming to the blog very soon!


edible hedges
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And Waits got to draw some bacteria:

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And make a seed bomb for some guerrilla gardening:

making seed bombs

And my favorite kid-friendly feature, which I think is just so freakin’ creative:

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The Culture Petting Zoo, where folks could get to know the various players in all these ferment-y foods: view yeast through a microscope, grab a handful of crystalline kefir grains, or get up close and personal with a giant slimy kombucha SCOBY. This was such a fun idea!

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water kefir grains

There were also speakers and demonstrations, back to back, all day long. And one of the best – and most generous – aspects of the event, was that each demonstration included hands-on sampling and practicing for the audience. Essentially, everyone got to make their own ferment, in real time, as the demo was going on – all cultures, materials, and mason jars provided free of charge. I’ve never really seen anything like that before, which is truly a testament to the quality and friendliness of this festival!


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Water kefir demonstration, under the big top.


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Santa Barbara Fermentation Festival 9

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mulberry climbing tree

At some point we stumbled upon this mulberry tree – an enormous mulberry tree! – that created a sort of shady haven underneath. Parents lounging beneath the branches, and children all swinging and clinging to every limb. It felt magical, under there.


climbing mulberry tree
climbing mulberry tree 1

All in all, an incredible day, full of interesting people, inspired foods for sampling (I didn’t take many pictures of those, but I swear I must have tried 15 different kinds of kombucha, plus sauerkraut and kimchi and pickles and everything else you could ever imagine fermenting), funky music, farm-style fun, artisan crafters and creators, homesteaders, urban homesteaders, suburban homesteaders, and sustainable dreamers of all stripes. I found the whole event to be entirely enlivening, just exactly the kind of soul-food I was craving. It felt like being amongst my people. It felt like home.


eating borage
Edible flower power!


Much love, and maybe I’ll see you there next year!

♥ ♥ ♥

  • http://windycityvegan.wordpress.com/ Monika {windycityvegan}

    Kombucha pops! The clock is ticking on my kitchen-as-playground days. These might make an appearance! I already have yoghurt culturing for pops so I might as well make some kombucha while I’m at it, right?

  • April

    So cool! I’m all over the kombucha Popsicles! And did I spy fermenting Brussels sprouts?????

  • Sarah C.

    That sounds amazing. I wish my town had that going on! By the way, speaking of seed bombs, do you know the kids’ book called Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney? It is a sweet story about a girl who grows up to have adventures all over the world and then “make the world more beautiful”- which at first she doesn’t know how to do but then ends up seed bombing her whole town with lupine seeds. It’s a bit of an older book, but lovely art and message and it’s cute to see the “seed bombing” message isn’t just a new thing!

  • http://thegreenpenn.blogspot.com LIndsey at TheGreenPenn

    Looks like y’all had a blast. That tree! Gorgeous.
    I just love that these traditional food prep techniques are resurging! What a neat festival idea. I’m planning to start fermenting this summer. I’ve never really done it, though. What book would you recommend to get started? There are so many that it’s a bit overwhelming. Thanks!