The Farm/Art Dtour is one of the more unique ArtPlace grantees due to its pastoral setting. “Farm-based ephemeral art installations”  and artist-made “Roadside Culture Stands” join gustatory experiences like tastings, demonstrations, and farm tours. Wormfarm Institute, the group leading the project with support from the county economic development organization and state tourism office, calls their approach “economic gardening.”

Donna Neuwirth, Executive Director of the Wormfarm Institute, explains:

Fermentation is transformation:  grain to beer, milk to yogurt, cabbage to kimchi – and from one sort of community to another.   The slow process of rot, essentially, yields something nutritious, delicious, at times mind altering – and possibly dangerous.   It is the metaphor for our work and the name of our annual event – Fermentation Fest- a Live Culture Convergence.

The Farm Art Dtour is the most complex element within Fermentation Fest, and we’re taking the winter to evaluate, reassess and begin planning for October 2012. It’s ironic, but now is the hardest part  – when it’s cold and all the artists are gone, the barn is empty except for the cat and legions of mice she’s unlikely to make a dent in.

We will have our first post event focus group this week with the participating landowners and farmers.  30 of us will get into probably 16-20 different cars and drive an average of 15 miles each way. That’s the reality of rural communities. We’ll meet at the Branding Iron, great little tavern that did a brisk business on the DTour and is centrally located.  We discovered too late that our Amish friends won’t join us at a place that serves a certain kind of fermented product.  Whoops – didn’t think of that.

The landowners are critical working partners and in some cases double as artists. Our job is to hear from them – how they experienced  interaction with the public; how they view potential growth of the event; what untapped opportunities might there be;  How to win over the skeptical?

The DTour is still very new and shaped around concepts not immediately discernable. New ideas have the power to excite and transform but they are also very fragile and could easily give way to the popular or the easy to grasp.  As we expand our collaboration,  enlisting partners key in creating vibrancy – bodies, movement, ideas, commerce –  we want to be sure to bewilder as many as we please, provoke as many as we enchant.

A little rot keeps the cultures alive.


Photo by Ann Foley of cabbage awaiting fermentation

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