How Asian is Fish Sauce?

Food historians, chefs and nutrition experts are divided: could Asian fish sauce have come from Ancient Rome through the Silk Road? There are numerous similarities between the Roman condiment garum and Asian fish sauces, highlights an article in the South China Morning Post. Garum — made by layering salt and fish — was the second most expensive liquid on the market after perfume. Another theory says the local Asian fish sauces like Vietnam’s nuoc mam, Thailand’s nam pla and Japan’s gyosho were not influenced by Roman garum but by China’s ancient soy sauce making. Sauces like nuoc mam use the same fermentation technique as Chinese soy sauce, and they share the same consistency.

“Fermented fish sauces and dishes from different periods and places around the world show that various civilizations have found fermentation to be the best and easiest way to preserve food,” says Giorgio Franchetti, food historian and author of the book “Dining with the Ancient Romans.”

Read more (South China Morning Post)

An organic farmer and nutrition activist is teaching schools and daycare centers in Japan to grow their own vegetable garden using fermented compost from recycled food waste, then incorporate into school lunches those fresh vegetables with traditional Japanese fermented foods (like miso and pickles). Two years after the program’s launch, absences due to illness have dropped from an average of 5.4 days to 0.6 days per year.

Farmer Yoshida Toshimichi “is a devout believer in the power of microbes.” Using centuries of Japanese folks wisdom that is supported by modern science, Toshimichi explains that fermentation bacteria in the compost yields hardy, insect-resistance vegetables. He says the key to a healthy immune system is maintaining a diverse and balanced gut microbiota. “Lactobacilli and other friendly microbes found in naturally fermented foods can help maintain a healthy environment in the gut, just as they do in the soil,” continues the article. Microorganisms in fermented foods like miso and soy sauce will help balance gut flora. “Organic vegetables, meanwhile, provide the micronutrients and fiber on which those friendly bacteria thrive. In addition, phytochemicals found in vegetables—especially, fresh organic vegetables in season—are thought to guard against inflammation, which is associated with cancer and various chronic diseases,” the article reads.

Toshimichi has authored books on his farming and nutrition practices and is featured in the two-part documentary film “Itadakimasu,” which translates to “nourishment for the Japanese soul.”

Read more (Nippon)

We asked the co-founders of three fermentation brands where they see the future of the fermentation industry. Though all noted consumers are seeking fermented products for health properties, these brand leaders all gave their own interesting insight into fermentation’s growth.

Where do you see the future of the fermentation industry?

Obviously, you have a lot of beverages out there that really paved the way, kombucha has been a huge success story. But fermented vegetables I think are, one, you’re getting a ton of free press from dietitians and doctors who are saying you need to eat this stuff, the rest of the world eats this every day, Americans need to eat it, too. Second, gut health is tied into everything, and that’s pushing fermented product sales. There are studies proving gut health is linked to your mental well-being, its liked to weight managements, its linked to your skin health. Then third, exciting flavors and new and exciting brands. Fermented products need to be approachable products for the American palate, and I’m proud to say that we’re a big driver of that. We’re showing what can be done with a simple product.

Drew Anderson, Cleveland Kraut

I think it’s only going to go up from here. I see it really booming in a big way. I see a lot of activity happening in the future with new companies coming up on the horizon. I also am excited for the gut-brain connection, how ferments can really affect mental health disorders, like depression and bipolar and anxiety. I think that’s a field that were not even breaking into at all and it’s coming.

I think we’re pretty far from this but I think fermented foods can be incredibly potent in preventative medicine as well, like preventing certain diseases that are on the rise, like diabetes and cancer. I don’t want to make health claims, but i think that’s where we’re going with the industry.

Lauren Mones, Fermenting Fairy

The trend is going to continue, that people are going to continue to eat more fermented foods, that they’re going to eat more diverse and types of fermented foods that will be in the American diet. I think people are going to start caring more about where their food comes from. Fermented foods that come from farmers and soil that is improving and helping climate change rather than contributing to it. We only have about 12 more years to figure that out. People are going to really start to understand that and make choices based on that. 

Marcus McCauley, Picaflor

When Marcus McCauley started fermented hot sauce brand Picaflor, he knew he wanted to go beyond the organic label. The 40-acre McCauley Family Farm in Longmont, Colorado where McCauley grows thousands of pounds of red peppers a year for the hot sauce is fully regenerative. 

“When I started, l knew all the best foods are fermented,” McCauley says. “My favorite hot sauces were fermented, but they are pasteurized and filled with preservatives. I thought it would be great to have one that was alive and full of probiotics.”

McCauley began selling Picaflor in 2014 at farmers markets in Colorado. Today, the hot sauce is sold in 400 stores in 12 states. The farm where McCauley, his wife and their 7-year-old son Hawk live, is central to Picaflor’s mission to heal bodies and the earth. 

Check out our Q&A with McCauley, whose live culture hot sauce won a coveted Nexty Award at ExpoWest for best new condiment.

Q: How did Picaflor first get started.

Picaflor started as we faced this age old dilemma as farmers and growers of food — what do we do with the things that we don’t sell or how do we preserve the harvest for the winter?

A Farmer friend of mine had a couple thousand pounds of peppers that he wasn’t selling because they were past the time to sell and he said if you can do something with them you can have them. I immediately thought fermentation because All the best foods are fermented

I didn’t have to have a lot of equipment, I could do it with limited resources and low energy input. Just add salt and wait.

Q: Tell me about McCauley Family Farms.

We started seven years ago — we have a vision to be ecologically and economically sustainable for generations. We realized that very early on we needed to be regenerative. So a farm where it’s is a whole farm system — a place where animals, perennials, ruminants, birds, insects, fungi, humans all play a part and a roll together to create something more than the sum of the parts.

We’re trying to create a functioning whole farm ecology here.

We have a volunteer program on the farm too, for people who want to get involved who are inspired by regenerative farming and want to give more. They want to feel a part of a community that’s a part of the land and nourished by the land. We have a lot of programs — we host local culinary students each week, sponsor farm yoga Fridays and just had some of the Google here for a team build experience. They all work with us on the farm, then have a meal with us. The give back to us. It’s all about the reciprocity, reciprocity with people and reciprocity with the land.

Q: You have so many different people coming to the farm. What are people most surprised about when they come to the farm? 

People are very surprised that the chicken that they eat at the store that is organic and free range is not required to be outside at all, let alone on a functioning pasture. They are surprised to learn that organic, free range chickens are 30,000 birds in a barn. I think people are surprised to learn that their organic, free range chickens live their life in a cramped barn.

We utilize a rotation of sheep and chickens to regenerate fragile front range pasture land. We call it carbon farming. That’s also what helps fertilize our  pepper fields. We use some of the extra pepper mash and stems that goes back to the soil, so we’re creating these loops, these cycles, just like how our ecosystem works. But part of that is creating this fertility from living, thriving animals. 

And I think people are surprised to learn that their plants, their organic plants, are basically fertilized from fish emulsion primarily. The fertility for organic agricultural is based off fish emulsion, so that bycatch from our ocean. 

That’s where I’m talking about this living, whole farm functioning ecology that we have. Our whole farm system, the output for one part of the system is the input for another part of the system. Rather than having it shipped in from other parts of the world and screw up those parts of the world.

Q: So you are reusing your food waste?

There’s a number of our ferments that are based off of capturing waste streams and producing amazing food from it. We do a beet green kimchi, for example. Local farmers often top off the beets and compost it. Which beet greens are my favorite green to cook with. Another thing is radishes. Once spring starts to turn into the summer, radishes start to molt and farmers have to get them out of the field, so we come in and provide them cash for that lost yield of radishes that would normally get turned under and go into the compost pile. We make a radish kimchi out of it. 

That’s how our pepper flakes came into being too. We kind of upcycled something we didn’t plan on having. It turned into the product that won the best new condiment at ExpoWest this year.

Q: Where did the name Picaflor come from?

I had a real vision to do the live fermented hot sauce, after I had already experimented with it when I was in Colombia on a vision quest in South America. That’s where it came really, really clear. The hummingbird in that tradition and culture is important as the bringer of life.

Picaflor means hummingbird in Spanish. But “pica” means picante like spicy in spanish and also “flor” is like gut flora. 

Q: Your logo is so distinctive, people remember that. How did the logo come about?

That was Andrea at Moxie Soso, she did that. They’re a  local design company here in Boulder. I said to them “I don’t know how you do your design process, but I want to tell you two things then do your thing.” One is how I kind of had the vision for the farm what I wanted it to be, about my mission is to heal people with delicious food. And I told them the history of peppers. Peppers want to be bird food. They co-evolve with birds to spread their seed. That’s why they’re colorful and they’re spicy spicy to deter mammals, but then humans came along very late in the game after that defense had been working for tens of thousand of years and we fall in love with the spice. We start to spread those seeds, much further than the birds ever did. In that process we start to change the pepper and the pepper starts to change us and becomes part of our culture. That co-evolution between birds, peppers and humans continues. The love of peppers and birds is reflected in our logo.

A lot of our food crops come from this long, long thousands and thousands of years free border crossing, migration, cultural exchange of movement of people and seeds. We are recognizing that, honoring that  history.

Q: How did you learn to ferment?

I learned how to ferment by reading Sandor Katz, through trial and error, being self taught and experimenting.

We were doing a lot of experimentation on the farm, we had tried a lot of different things, and it wasn’t clear to me exactly what we were going to do, what our focus was, what our path forward was. There are a lot of farms in this area that don’t make it — there are farms all over that don’t make it. We knew It was a pivotal time and I was really thinking about where we should focus. That’s what I was holding in my heart and on my shoulders when I went on this vision quest. That was the first I had done a vision quest, it’s a long time commitment for me. It actually led me into farming and my family, all of that came from that vision quest. My farm, my family, my mission in life to serve the earth — it all came from this trip, I felt it strongly and wanted to give back. To give back to the earth and serve.

Q: What are the growing conditions like for your pepper seeds in Longmont.

We’re north of the historical range of the chili trail — as people and seeds moved north gradually away from the crop origin from Mexico and Central and South America, that migration didn’t quite make it here to Colorado. The horticultural culture wasn’t established in Boulder County. So we’re on the edge of it. We select seeds to be at home here, but high altitude, a shorter growing season, alkaline soils. It’s difficult to reliably get peppers to go red, to ripen all the way to red here. So green chili is here in Colorado for a reason, we love our green chili. So we’ve had to carefully select heirloom varieties that will grow red here in this part of Colorado. And We select seeds every year to help us do that.

Q: How important was it to you to become a certified organic brand?

I think it was important to at least do that. To give the consumer — we’re one step removed from our consumer than what we’re used to because we have a lot of connections with our neighbors and our local community in providing food. They know us. They know were beyond organic. They know organic is the bare minimum, and that standard is getting watered down all the time. It was important to at least start with that as a certification, but we really hang our hat and pride ourselves on being beyond organic.

Q: What do you mean by going beyond organic?

In whole farm systems, to truly walk that talk and to be regenerative. We are dedicated to improving soil fertility over time, increasing soil carbon over time.

Q: Tell me about the fermentation process for your sauce.

We add salt and let the microbes do the magic. They’re our coworkers. In a sense I think of myself as a microbe farmer or rancher. I’m a microbe rancher. We add some salt, we use real salt. We’re happy to be working with Redmond Salt and utilizing them, it’s our local pink sea salt from the Utah desert. We inoculate with a couple super star strains. So we use lactobacillus plantarum and locatobasiliam rhamnosus. We don’t go through a kill step, so there’s also the diversity of wild microbes included as well.

Q: How long are the peppers fermenting before bottled?

Because we do a blend and we’ve had bumper crops and less than bumper crops at different times. So It dependents – it be anywhere from 6 months to 2 years, sometimes even longer. We have a fermentation facility in Boulder, we call it a fermentarium.

Q: Why was it important to Picaflor to be a fermented hot sauce? 

It gives you flavor you cannot get any other way. And we need more probiotics in our diet as Americans. We need a lot more live, fermented floods. Knowing that the popular Srirachas are fermented, but then it’s pasteurized and filled with preservatives. You’re taking this thing that could be inoculating and boosting the gut biome, but you’re adding preservatives to it and potentially harming it. We thought it ought to be alive. Plus it tastes better if it’s a raw ferment rather than a pasteurized ferment.

Q: Where do you see the future of Picalor and McCauley Family Farms?

I see us being a national brand and continuing to get delicious, live probiotic foods into people’s diets, I see us continuing to give people a compelling reason to choose to ingest more probiotics because they’re so delicious. We’re wanting to bring life back to people’s daily meal while bringing life back to the soil. While we’re doing that, getting this out there, we want to heal more land. We want to have a bigger impact on more acreage and bring more regenerative farm systems to the earth.

Q: What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs starting their own fermentation business?

I would say that really try to find a way to get started with the least amount of overhead as possible, that’s No. 1. And trial and error, start small, if you have a cottage food law in your state and you can operate under that, great, do it. If you don’t, move to a state that does. We didn’t have that, so we had to start a big fermentation facility at the beginning. It cost a lot of overhead. We had to get into distribution and sell a lot more just to be able to do that. It can be hard to find a commissary kitchen that will let you ferment because of the smell fermenting generates. Try to start with small overhead so you can keep iterating and improving your formulation, your packing, your labeling, your bottling processes. Build relationships through farmers market or small retailers locally, too.

Fermentation is a small food business community generally, and there are a lot of people who are very very helpful, it’s a supportive community. If you can join a networking group locally or even online, and just ask questions, meet people, go to a company and transparently tell them what you’re up to and maybe you can learn from them. We’ve had a lot of people come and stagiaire — which is common in restaurants — and they come and help and learn.

Q: Where do you see the future of the fermented food industry going?

The trend is going to continue, that people are going to continue to eat more fermented foods, that they’re going to eat more diverse and types of fermented foods that will be in the American diet. I think people are going to start caring more about where their food comes from. Fermented foods that come from farmers and soil that is improving and helping climate change rather than contributing to it. We only have about 12 more years to figure that out. People are going to really start to understand that and make choices based on that. 

Q: What challenges do fermented food producers face?

One of the main things is just like an uncertainty in the food safety, health department world around fermented foods and how to deal with it. Some think that you have to have a hazardous plan and others think it’s not even a hazard. You could have your state thinks one thing, but your local municipality thinks another. 

Q: Most food brands I interview mention food safety and regulation as a challenge. Will the government continue to regulate it more? What’s going to happen?

It’s interesting because it’s one of the easier ones. There’s never been a case of a foodborne illness from a live fermented foods. It’s been in the human diet for thousands of years. Not only is it safe — we need it. It is an incredibly easy and safe food, but one of the challenges is just to deal with the different, the degrading of knowledge  in the public health sector.

Q: What unique strengths do fermented producers bring to the food industry?

Maybe we learn this from microbes, but our community ethic and cooperative ethic to help each other out. And so I think that’s the no. 1 thing. And our willingness to experiment and try new things out and our commitment to quality. The fermenters that I meet, they’re all obsessed with creating the best — the most nutritious and delicious food that they possibly can. There’s this aspect to bringing something back that we really need.

Q: Do you think consumer’s awareness of fermented foods is increasing?

Oh definitely. Our knowledge is increasing, we’ve waged an all out war on microbes for decades, which has had some benefits, but it’s had some drawbacks. We only sequenced the human microbiome in 2011, that was the first time we got a little peek into the diversity that’s in our gut. And that was just a small glimpse on the map. What does it do? We have no clue, but we’re finding out more and more everyday. And that is seeping into public awareness and mainstream consciousness. People are realizing “On my God, I’m not just a me, I’m a we.” All of that has a role to play in our health, our vitality, our wholeness.

Q: What myths do you hear the public still believing about fermented foods?

I think people are afraid that it’s going to make them sick and its rotting. I think there’s still a lot of fear around foodborne illness. I think that people are kind of confused when is food good and when is it bad.

Q: What can the fermentation industry do to better educate the public about fermented foods?

First of all, we’re doing a great job. But we need to work together. It’s not competitive, it’s not fighting over one piece of the pie but growing the pie. There’s so much we still have yet to do in educating the public about the role of fermented foods and why they’re important. How do we do that? I’m doing it one person at a time at the farmers market every single Saturday, sparking up a conversation about it. But there’s still a lot of people that don’t know and there’s a great opportunity for us to educate people. Of course the  old channels of doing that aren’t as effective as they used to be. The most effective way for me is to connect with people one-on-one through farmers market, in-store demos, classes.

I think another thing, one of the things that really lights me up, working with schools and getting these kind of foods in schools. The literature is overwhelming about the benefits of probiotic foods in kid’s diets, for brain development and immune systems, there are such better health outcomes for kids who have that in their diet. I want to work with schools to provide them with these foods and also educate them on why it’s important. No one told me why it’s so important at my age. Let’s start a school program.

Jared Schwartz was in art school when the quality of the American food culture struck a nerve in him. He worked in restaurant kitchens while studying photography in Boston and was disturbed by the mindlessness of the food industry. No one was paying attention to the food they were eating, from the ingredients they were consuming to the source of the food.

“I started looking at the most traditional aspects in the food world, the way Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese people eat. Everything comes back to salt and fermentation,” says Jared. “It creatively made me think what can we do in fermentation that’s not around the standard. We have this standard – but what’s the future of it?”

Jared moved to update New York and began fermenting full-time. Heavily involved in multiple businesses, Jared is growing five local food brands – and adding more. Today, he is the director of operations and innovation at Farm Ferments (a fermentation hub in New York’s Hudson Valley), Hawthorne Valley Ferments (the fermented vegetable line of Hawthorne Valley biodynamic farm), Poor Devil Pepper Co. (the fermented hot sauce company started by Jared and wife Laura Webster) and Sauerkraut Seth’s (a raw sauerkraut). Hawthorne Valley Ferments, Poor Devil Pepper Co. and Sauerkraut Seth’s source almost all ingredients from organic, regenerative farms in New York state and the northeast.

“With Farm Ferments, we’re trying to create that middle ground for fermentation processors instead of becoming a monster powerhouse. We want to include smaller brands in that,” Jared says.

“With Whitethorne, we’re trying to create that middle ground for fermentation processors instead of becoming a monster powerhouse. We want to include smaller brands in that,” Jared says.

Though he began Poor Devil Pepper Co., he loves seeing more fermented sauce and dressing labels join the industry. More brands means more customers learning about fermentation. He adds: “If there’s only one fermented hot sauce or one fermented salad dressing in a case, people are like ‘Why buy it?’ It’s not going to move. There’s strength in community.”

Below Jared, a board member of the Fermentation Association, discusses successfully launching multiple fermented food brands, the importance of collaboration in the fermentation industry and how brands can support the farmers that source their food.

Q: Tell me about Hawthorne Valley Ferments, you’ve helped triple production.
When I started about 7 years ago, I started pushing the envelope in terms of production capabilities and sort of recipe fine-tuning, and we’ve started to grow progressively.

Q: What do you mean by pushing the envelope?
In terms of getting to the nitty-gritty of ferment time, turn overs, the farms were working with and sort of diving into the effective quality of different salt types. We’re finding the sweet spot that kind of creates a smoother cog of the fermentation system because I feel like every company is doing the same thing, but they all kind of have their own twists on it that takes a bit to come into.

Q: What are some of the twists?
Trade secrets. But like their own salt types, their own weight systems, their own ferment times. And a lot of it is environmentally related. Out west, they’re going to do things different than what we’re doing out east because of yeasts in the air. Northern California wine country is going to be battling yeasts off grapes where we’re dealing with different frost times on the east coast.

Q: When did you and your wife start Poor Devil Pepper Company? 
A: Poor Devil started in 2014 working after hours at Hawthorne Valley Ferments. I started making sauerkraut and ferments at Hawthorne Valley and, at the same time, started taking the logic of basic sauerkrauts and kimchis and turning it into salad dressings, hot sauces, everything under the sun. We started in 5-gallon buckets and just grew it. We distribute on the east coast and down to about North Carolina currently. We’re mostly with eastern distributors.

Q: Is fermentation a growing industry?
Oh, 10,000 percent. It’s an interesting time because no one has ever really studied the good benefits of bacteria until the last five years. Now, every few months, you start hearing about these scientists all over the world that are actually taking the time to study gut bacteria. I saw something recently about a connection between gut biome and autism. There are all these amazing studies. The more focus that can go to that, the money, the time, that’s what truly keeps probiotics alive. There was never really money behind that before, because that’s really what it comes down to as much as people could do pro bono scientific research on it.

I personally don’t like the idea of taking an extract or like a powderized version of something. But, especially in the organic environment, people are well-informed and know where their food is coming from. The more light that is shed on fermentation, the bigger it can be.

Q: You have a generation coming up that’s caring about GMO and they care about clean eating. Do you see more consumers educating themselves about where their food is coming from?
Oh yeah. The only yang to that is that I fear in some ways every certification under the sun is dumbing down consumers too much. There should never be a need to have a non-GMO seal and an organic seal next to each other. But we take it because it’s all good in the long run. But in some ways, you feel extorted. I’ve gotten so many calls because our labels saw raw so we don’t say unpasteurized and we get calls saying “It says raw – but is it unpasteurized?” You can’t walk both those roads. It’s back to that sort of what people are told to eat. If someone says “Eat unpasteurized sauerkraut,” they say “But it says raw sauerkraut, I don’t know what to eat.” It’s confusing people.

Q: Tell me why Poor Devil is so unique compared to other sauces?
It’s down to that umami flavor. You’re able to take the natural fermentation and unpasteurization and you’re instantly tasting more flavor. In some cases, it brings out more heat because you’re not cooking it. It’s true sauce work. Like making a true gravy. There are layers to it. Fermentation allows you to keep levels of flavor in a sauce and not combine them.

Q: How did Farm Ferments start?
It started at Hawthorne Valley, which a is a nonprofit biodynamic farm. It started out of there. We were looking for a means to grow the fermentation movement and our food access program and looking at the supply chain in a different way. We still source 98 percent of everything we make from New York state, and probably 80 percent from our county. We started look at the supply chain from a different angle. We thought, instead of these farmers growing for a CSA or a farmers market, let’s give them the backdrop of a wholesale producer and work with some other producers in the area. That’s a guaranteed outlet. And so it kind of grew out of that. We were in a 2,500 square foot basement on a farm making krauts and hot sauces, then this past year we moved 10 minutes away to a fully renovated, building that is soon to be a state-of-the-art production facility for all things fermented vegetables.

Q: So Hawthorne Valley helps brands find farmers they can work with?
Yeah, that was definitely a big piece to it, creating social impact of more jobs in the area. Part of Hawthorne Valley itself, there’s a biodynamic farm, there’s dairy that’s part of it, there’s a bakery, a farm store and a Waldorf School that are part of the nonprofit. The hope taking Farm Ferments is growing that Hawthorne Valley name to create more education about biodynamic farming and regenerative, sustainable agriculture.

Q: Where are you hoping to expand Farm Ferments? How do you scale?
There’s always growth for it, and I feel that’s where the Fermentation Association is helpful to all brands. How to create a competitive brand in the fermentation industry from my experience is competitive, but it’s also collaborative. The true growth of it as a whole, there’s a place for everybody. To me personally, no one on the west coast should have a predominantly stronghold on the east coast on ferments. At this point, there’s so many people doing it. There’s room for them. You walk into a Whole Foods in New York City, I’d rather see five local brands taking up the shelf than your high performance SKUs from the west coast. But I think there’s room for everybody. The same products are going to be different because of the production process.

Q: So you see the fermentation industry as a community of collaborates rather than competitors.
Yeah. I think that set will only expand. Especially as the research and science behind the industry growth finds new ways to naturally produce probiotics through fermentation or finds a way to extract them. The greatest thing I could see would be larger ferment sets over the board, whether its krauts or kombuchas, yogurts, less in the vitamin set in terms of probiotics.

Q: You’d rather see ferments growing naturally through food than probiotics through a pill?

Yeah, exactly.

Q: You recently added Seth’s Sauerkraut to Farm Ferments. Are you actively looking for more brands on the east coast?

Off and on. We’re reaching a point of automation that’s kind of unique to the field. We’re actively looking to be a stepping stone for helping other brands grow in a collaborative effort. We’re not there yet, but it’s a goal in terms of our capacity.

Q: I love how in tune you are to local farmers in your area. How do you think fermentation brands can connect with and support farmers?
The biggest question I’ve learned to ask farmers what are their strengths. Every farmer will always tell you they can grow you everything you need. But to really work with farms and invest in them, let them supply you with what you need and work with them with what they grow best. Not every farmer can grow the best cabbage, but maybe they can grow the best carrots or garlic. Not every farmer has the same equipment either, see if they’re hand cutting or mechanically doing it. See what they’re setup to do. Find a system that works for everybody, work on communication between those farms.

Also, it’s kind of always hard knowing in terms of nature what’s going to happen to the crop. But the biggest thing brands can do is to still support local farmers even if someone has a bad crop one year. Still go back to them. In terms of working with them, get to know them. Get your fingers in the dirt, learn about how they’re growing things.

Q: Tell me more about working on communication between brands and farmers

The food system as a whole, there are too many people at this point all trying to grow 70 varieties of heirloom tomatoes for the same audience. This is a scary thought, but a lot of farmers are dying off or retiring and it’s the younger generation that’s only focusing on heirlooms, focusing on what’s trending. They’ve become these specialty fancy vegetable farmers. We’re seeing it in upstate New York. But who am I going to be buying cabbage from in the next 10 years? People want to be growing those heirloom tomatoes even though there isn’t a full market for it, but at the same time, they don’t want to be a cabbage farmer. That’s the mentality we’re seeing with the newer farmers. How does the next generation of farmers fit into the current and next generation of fermentation folks?

Regardless if you’re a consumer or a producer, looking at the future, there are a lot of good food things that are happening. But there’s got to be this the full circle connection for it to make sense.

Q: If farmers just focus on growing what’s popular right now, where does that leave fermented product producers?
As the fermentation industry grows, it will be interesting to see how that affects the farming industry. As messed up as our food system currently is, where everyone one way or another is going to make something cheaper, the farmers are the ones who are getting the short end of the stick. How that gets solved, I have no clue. But we need to keep doing what we can to support each other, the fermentation folks and farmers.

Q: What changes do you think are needed to propel the fermentation industry.
The industry is going up and up. It’s almost like a defined set. If you go into any grocery store, kombucha is established already, they have a defined section. But every other fermented food product is this whirlwind between fresh produce, cheese, meat. Categories for fermented products need to be outlined. Especially as there’s more exposure for fermented products.

Q: Fermentation is in the news a lot lately as a trend. Do you think its trending or a movement?
It’s a little bit of both. It’s always trending depending on what the crowd is. It’s big with the DIY foodie crowd, fermentation has a type. It’s really big w chefs right now, everyone is starting to pickle their own things, test the water, and I think Rene Redezpi and the folks at NOMA are championing a lot of great stuff, opening their ferment lab. That’s the energy that keeps the trend bubbling. For such a traditional, ancient thing, there are so many unknowns to it. And the more energy behind it is going to keep the next wave of it moving.

The Fremont Company – family-owned, Ohio-based manufacturers of fermented and pickled vegetables and other specialty foods – has partnered with Budweiser to create Budweiser’s Premium Sauces and Marinades. Budweiser and The Fremont Company have spent two years developing the line of BBQ, wing, steak and burger sauces and marinades, just in time for a July 4th BBQ.

Read more (Globe Newswire) (Photo: Budweiser)