Farm/Art DtourSauk County, WI
Wormfarm Institute combines art and agriculture to produce reenchantment with this rural county in Wisconsin.
Wormfarm – fish bait or think tank?
The name came to us in 1995 shortly after moving to a farm in Wisconsin. The work of Charles Darwin and his book The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms figured prominently, as did Bullwinkle cartoons. Newly ruralized and hyper-alert to our surroundings we learned about the fertile places left in the wake of earthworms; the unseen activity creating pathways for rain to penetrate the soil; tunnels that allow roots to grow deeper; deposited nutrients that encourage plants to grow stronger. They are collaborators – the worms and plants, and we wanted to join them.
We are Jay Salinas and Donna Neuwirth, Wormfarm’s co founders, and we left our contented lives in Chicago and immersed ourselves in the ancient processes of growing food. Our backgrounds in visual art and theater proved surprisingly useful as the cyclical nature of the work and the process focus put us in a familiar mental state where connections are made and meaning is found.
Wormfarm is in the fertile soil business – literally – growing organic vegetables and metaphorically – for the creative work of artists and writers through our long-standing artist residency program and through creating community festivals. In each phase of our work we integrate culture and agriculture employing what the worms (and the occasional human) have taught us about unseen pathways and connections, building both cultural and agricultural infrastructure along an urban rural continuum.
Listen to an NEA podcast interview on the Wormfarm here.
The Farm/Art D-tour provides an opportunity to make these pathways visible, the connections practical, the possibilities palpable. This year’s inaugural D-tour is a central element of our ten day community event, Fermentation Fest – A Live Culture Convergence – a collaboration with county government, the Chamber of Commerce, farmers, artists, chefs and many others who partner across disciplines exploring new ways to build thriving communities through creative placemaking.
A 50 mile self-guided drive, the D-tour meanders through the beautiful unglaciated hills and valleys of Sauk County Wisconsin. Home to Aldo Leopold and his land ethic; a viable and diverse farming economy, an established art studio tour, an energized local food movement, and a legacy of self-taught artists, the landscape itself is a cultural resource.
Our project uses the vision of artists to explore the timeless connections between land and people.
This working landscape will be punctuated by farm based art installations, Roadside Culture Stands (artist built mobile farm stands), Field Notes (rural education sites that will help us understand a hay field or a wet land) with episodic performances and happenings. The D-tour builds on an ongoing project The Re-enchantment of Agriculture, which explores the places where human imagination, experiments in sustainability, community well being, and creative excitement, all converge.