Texas Farmers’ Market hosts fifth annual Fermentation Festival

Libby Cohen

Billions of living organisms gathered at the Austin Central Library for the Texas Farmers’ Market’s fifth annual Fermentation Festival on Oct. 21.

The free event open to the public served as a way for the Texas Farmers’ Market to raise money, support local businesses and educate the public on the fermentation processes. The festival serves as an opportunity for fermenters to connect with customers and enthusiasts, as fermentation is a means of preservation that provides digestive benefits.

Proceeds went to the organization’s AG Producers Support fund, which provides financial aid to farmers and ranchers during crisis or who wish to expand their agriculture. Nora Chovanec, event coordinator and director of marketing and agriculture, said the AG Producers Support fund is a vital part of their organization because of emergencies such as excessive rainfall.

“AG Producers Support Fund, which is for farmers and ranchers in times of emergency, like when there’s a drought or rain like floods which is happening this weekend,” Chovanec said.

While Chovanec said this component of the festival is of utmost importance, she also said around 7500 participants made for a successful day among local vendors with their final sales.

“This festival generates thousands of dollars for local businesses,” Chovanec said, “So we feel like it’s another way we can help small businesses in Central Texas.”

John-Paxton Gremillion, co-owner of Buddha Brews, the first kombucha brewery in Texas, said he values farmers’ markets such as the Fermentation Festival because they support locally made products. In particular, he said the goal of his kombucha is to maintain gut health benefits where industrial breweries tend to fall behind.

“It’s one of those cases where those small, regional, independent producers are really holding the line on authentic produced food,” Gremillion said.

As people lined up to try his eight flavors of kombucha, Gremillion said his product contains approximately 19 billion live cultures, which is closer to a home brew than the fewer cultures in an industrial-made kombucha. These live cultures are the main health proponent, Gremillion said. His business partner, Kimberly Lanski, demonstrated to a packed gallery room how to successfully brew billions of live cultures at home.

Alex Salerno, rhetoric and writing senior and festival attendee, said he is “all about the farm to table process.”

Gin, beer, wine, breads, cheeses, pickles and fresh produce were just some of the local products for sale in the outer portion of the festival. Inside the library, do-it-yourself seminars were held to inform the public on how to ferment different items, including the Buddha Brew’s demonstration. Among the 13 presentations throughout the day were Home Composting with Austin Resource Recovery, Sauerkraut Power with Kate Payne, and Killer Kimchi with Uyen Pham.

In addition to the food and beverage tents, the festival included food trucks, live music and a silent auction. Donation jars for the AG Producers Support fund were located all over the festival as well.

Although the gross proceeds have not been confirmed yet, Chovanec said she believes this year’s festival was very successful.

The overflowing, rapidly-moving Colorado River was in full view at the festival which reminded organizers and volunteers of their mission to help producers impacted from natural disasters such as the flooding that occurred this weekend.