Regional Producer Profile: Fermenti Artisan
Q & A with Owner Joshua Henson
What does your business name mean? How did you choose this name?
Our name, Fermenti Artisan, is first and foremost a representation of what we do: small, handcrafted (or artisan) batches of traditionally pickled, or lacto-fermented, vegetables and cultured beverages. The secondary meaning behind our name represents how we live: "the fermentation of the artisan (ourselves);" much like the fermented foods we create, we are continuously changing and improving the flavor of our lives to bring greater health to the community around us.
What do you produce? What is your signature product?
At Fermenti Artisan, we create small, handcrafted batches of traditionally pickled, or lacto-fermented, vegetables and cultured beverages, such as Sauerkraut, Kim-Chi, Garlic-Dill & Spicy Mexican Pickles, Kombucha and Water Kefir. Our signature products are our 6 Indiana Artisan krauts: Traditional Kraut, Garden Kraut, Curtido, Apple Ginger Kraut, Ramp Kraut, and Kim-Chi.
Where is your business/farm located? How many miles do you travel to reach Common Ground?
Fermenti Artisan is based in Indianapolis, Indiana. Our current production facility is located inside the historic Indianapolis City Market, 122 miles from Common Ground.
For how long have you been making your products?
Fermenti Artisan has been in production for just over 4 years, since June of 2010, but the owners have been personally fermenting at home for nearly a decade.
Where do you get the ingredients for your products?
During the growing season, Fermenti Artisan gets nearly 90% of the vegetables for our krauts from local farmers. As more of these farmers begin to use season extenders, the time frame of local availability steadily grows. When farmer-direct local produce is not
available, we source certified organic vegetables. We continuously work to develop relationships with farmers in the wider region, and even nationally, so that we can insure higher standards of quality and more money going directly to hard working farmers.
Do you use organic or fair trade (natural) ingredients/ farming practices?
When buying produce off of the commodity market, we only buy certified organic vegetables. However, when we can buy directly from the farmer, Fermenti Artisan does not require organic certification, as long as the produce is chemical free. Chemical free vegetables are essential to fermentation, as synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides all destroy the beneficial bacteria we rely upon for traditional pickling. Without healthy soil, cultivated in the manner that nature intended, you cannot create a great tasting, healthful kraut.
What do you enjoy most about making your products?
Personally, there are two things I enjoy most about making our products at Fermenti Artisan. The first is the sound the crocks make as gas bubbles out of them while there is kraut fermenting inside of them. No matter how my day is going, that sound will always bring a joyful smile to my face. The other part of making what we do worthwhile is the thanks we receive from customers as they discover the health changing joys of this ancient technology. We've gotten all manner of thanks, from "You saved my life" to "It just tastes so good!"
What do you find most challenging about making your products?
Even after 4 years, we still find our greatest challenge is the lack of education on fermented foods. For thousands of years, raw fermented foods have been a part of the human diet. But, for the last 150 years here in the United States, our food system has moved away from living, health-promoting foods to commercially sterile, dead food that can sit on a shelf indefinitely. However, with the help of such authors as Sandor Katz and Michael Pollen, the importance of consuming raw fermented foods is coming back into everyday life. At Fermenti Artisan, whether at the farmers market, in a demonstration class or working with our retailers, we strive to be a resource of information about fermented foods and other health-promoting foods.
What is your philosophy/perspective on locally made goods/ farming and agriculture?
Fermenti Artisan holds close the idea that "no one wants to get to paradise alone." We believe that in order for a craft business to be successful, you must raise a community up with you. By sourcing as much as possible either locally or directly from the farmer/producer, we help to insure the people putting their hearts and souls into the products we use get most of that money. This help us to not only strengthen the culture in our customers bellies, but it also strengthens the culture in our communities.
Is there anything else you'd like Common Ground's customers to know about your business/farm?
They can find out more information at www.fermentiartisan.com and at www.facebook.com/fermentiartisan