Culturing Community

The Nitty Gritty of Fermenti… LLC
Meg Chamberlain is sole owner and CEO of Fermenti. LLC. She recounts a bit of recent history: “We had a soft opening last September in Madison County and then officially started the business on January 1, 2017. My talented husband helped me get the infrastructure of the business up, and is my unpaid sidekick. When I decided to stand up for Fermenti., he decided to stand up in full support of me. Our four-year-old daughter even has input! Our best-selling Ginger and Turmeric Pink Kraut is pink upon her advisement! This truly is a family affair with incredible support by our community and local foodies!”
When I first looked at Fermenti.’s website I was impressed both with the beauty and variety of the fermented foods they offer. Even more meaningful for me was the Culturing Community statement about the Annual Ferment Festival they created in November, 2017.
Here’s that statement:
This event aims to create space for all members of Marshall and surrounding communities to join together in ways that honor each other and the land in support of fermentation, food preservation, farming and food stability in Madison County. All profits from the festival will be donated to the Beacon of Hope Food Bank. There will be demos on food preservation, primarily fermentation-based, as well as music, local speakers, a culture-focused photography exhibit, and vendors ranging from local farms to local potters, fermenters, crafters and much more! A bounce house and other children’s activities will be available to entertain the young ones—childcare provided.
What follows is a recap of her personal journey through the past number of years. She is truly an entrepreneur with a powerful sense of purpose and desire to connect and “culture community.”
“My first encounter (because that is the only way to describe it) with vegetable fermentation in my home, was on my off-grid homestead in Missouri. My husband, Lars, and I had bought 20 acres out in the middle of nowhere and set up our homestead back in 2008. He built our 24-foot octagonal cabin with hand tools and “upcycled materials.” We lived without power (other than one solar panel) or indoor running water for four years. But we did have an outhouse, some solar power, grew 70% of our food and traded and bartered for the rest with our Amish and country neighbors. We turned a “hay field into a homestead” I like to always say.
“It was quite a journey to preserve the bounty of all our hard work—being off-grid this was a challenge and we were working 14-17 hours a day on cultivating our orchards and gardens. Of course, we tried hand-made solar dehydrators, canning/pressure canning and salt curing. All were OK, but were either labor intensive or cost prohibitive. Then one day Lars walked in the house with a few bags of cabbages and a metal shredder he got from an Amish friend down the road. So, he starts chopping this cabbage up and I didn’t pay much attention—as I was skeptical. But he managed to fill an old crock we had. He left it covered with a towel in our pantry. I would walk past it every day and give it a wide berth, lol! But then a month or so later he pulled it out and declared, “I’m a gonna try it!” So, (after confirming with him that I had legal title to our land in case of his death—no joke!) he scraped off this top layer of discolored cabbage about three inches deep. (I later learned that was due to oxidization and lack of brine coverage.) And commenced eating this kraut he had made. It was oddly chunky and tangy, it smelled fine but it was SO foreign to everything I knew, I remained hesitant. I actually refused to eat it for three weeks or so! But then, as I watched the journey his body went on in the weeks that followed I was really intrigued. So we then included homemade kraut into our diets from time to time, which turned into a solid Kimchi addiction.
“It would be a few years later that I was reinvigorated in my interest of kraut and the fermentation of food in general, by several friends who were taking it to a more fun and foodie angle. I then saw this pantry staple as less a boring side dish and more of a creative outlet for flavor fusion and exploration! There is a fusion here of Science, Food and Art and it’s Fermentation—and it’s Delicious!! I did some experimenting and found that I was able to cut my food budget (40%), increase the nutritional value of my food, and limit food waste/scraps. With the introduction of fermented foods into my diet regularly I also noticed a benefit for my waistline! All my friends kept bugging me as to why I wasn’t selling my ferments so, one day I said to myself, “why not!”
“I took Sandor Katz’ Fermentation workshop at the Organic Grower’s School last year. And as I learned how to understand the depths of fermentation I continue to use his books as a reference. He is the “guru” for a very good reason! I had started teaching fermentation myself but my main push to start Fermenti. was that I saw an opportunity within my community to stand up for something that I feel/felt strongly about. I have seen it become a positive force in numerous lives, my own included. It is such a simple and attainable solution to the food waste and food preservation issue, as well as a means to increase nutritional value and cut food budgets all while bringing incredible flavor and accessibility to your table.
“This has all been a labor of love and commitment to being the change I wish to see, quite literally. Public demand and support have been our driving source of forward momentum. I think people have been waiting for this. I have had negative feedback from people, from time to time, until they talk to me long enough to hear that we not only sell the best fermented food in North Carolina but we also teach YOU how to make it (for pennies on the dollar!). Our classes are FREE to attend and you can join in the make-and-take fun for a nominal fee. We are even working on a FREE YouTube channel over the winter! Check out our website www.Fermenti.biz. We are also closing next week on our own Fermenti. Mountain Farm: 11 acres where we plan to produce most of the vegetables we ferment and sell, teach classes and have a small general store! We have a lot of connections and exciting plans within our community for the future! This is a change I wish to see in my community and I think that food security is at the heart of it.”


Contact Meg through the website: Fermenti.biz or email her at Fermentifoods@gmail.com.

Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Written by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker