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What’s old is new again at first Ontario Fermentation Festival – in Picton

Dodie Ellenbogen, of The County Bounty Farm in Elmbrook, was one of 45 vendors at the Fermentation Festival Saturday, at the Crystal Palace, Picton Fairgrounds.

A steady flow of people showed a growing appetite for nourishing food as they made their way around the first Ontario Fermentation Festival at Picton’s Crystal Palace on Saturday in search of all that is yummy – and good for the tummy.

Fermented foods are called pungent probiotic powerhouses and they are not new to the table, but are being brought back to the forefront as a healthy way to bring good bacteria to digestive tracts.

Jenny Empey and husband Alex Currie organized the first Ontario Fermentation Festival.

“What’s old is new again,” said Jenna Empey, organizer of the festival, with her husband, Alex Currie. “Fermented foods have always been part of human civilization as one of the oldest forms of food preservation. The industrialization of our food system took over in the 40s and 50s and since fermented foods need to be refrigerated, verses shelf-stable things, they lost favour on the shelves and people stopped eating them, but now they are coming back. Your gut health is really important and fermented foods offer a lot of probiotics and a lot of digestive health.”

Empey and Currie have been operating Pyramid Ferments, in Northport, since 2008 and refer to themselves as “bacteria farmers” going with their gut producing hand-crafted raw, live and fermented foods.

“At our business we do sauerkraut, kimchi (fermented vegetables) and kombucha (lightly fizzy fermented tea) and I always describe ourselves as bacteria farmers. We’re just helping bacteria have the best life possible and in turn, they are doing their work and creating delicious and healthy food.”

The fermentation process (chemical breakdown of a substance by bacteria, yeasts or other micro organisms) is best known in the making of beer, wine and liquor (sugar to alcohol); as well as bread, and cabbage (sauerkraut).

This first Ontario Fermentation Festival included those and more as participants celebrated anything and everything fermented in Prince Edward County and throughout the province.

The festival, she said, presents many delicious things -including sauerkraut, kimci, kumbucha, pickles, sour dough bread, fermented nut cheeses, coffee, chocolate and tea.

Maya Chesne, of Madoc, enjoyed cheese samples from Fifth Town.

Mya Chesne said she liked the cheese samples best so far at the show though her sister Rowyn is a big fan of kumbucha. They travelled to the show from Madoc with Dad, Nic and Mom, Laura, who also planned to enter her pickles in the amateur fermentation contest.

“We are big fermentation fans,” said Nic. “We make pickles and meats and we’re pleased with everything we have seen here today.”


Amy Mumby, of Cured Smokehouse, in Picton, handed out samples of her smoked olive oil.

Amy Mumby, of Cured Smokehouse, in Picton, was thrilled with the event and the crowds visiting her Cured Smokehouse booth where she sold her all-natural spice blends she makes here in the County and wholesales to independent grocers and butcher shops throughout the province.

“They did a great job with this festival,” said Mumby as she served up samples of her smoked olive oil and honey infused cider vinegar made with Waupoos apples and Hogan’s raw honey.

There were about 45 vendors and a number of guest speakers – including ‘The Germ Guy’ Jason Tetro, author of the Germ Files and the Germ Code who spoke about the relationship between humans and microbes.

The festival offered an interesting lineup of speakers and workshops.

Naturopath Pascaline Philips explained why people should eat probiotics and Corrie Rabbe, of the Radical Homestead, spoke about Kefir (fermented milk drink).

Empey and Currie also led workshops on how to make Kombucha, ferment sauerkraut and kimchi.

“I think education is one of the most important parts about this festival and one of the things people are most interested in, too,” said Empey.

The two filled the festival with participants they have met in community, locally and throughout Ontario over the years.

“This festival is really a dream come true for us. We have been working on it for years and we’re really excited to be holding this first Ontario festival,” said Empey. “We’ve booked to hold it again next year for the first weekend in August.”

Adnan Mustafa was well stocked with Syrian foods he creates with Suhaila El Husein of Papa Ghanoush & Momma Hummus.

Bay Woodyard’s booth was well stocked with products from PEC’s Honey Pie Hives and Herbals.

Paula Leite, of Caju Winds, offered samples of her cashew butter.

James Fraser helped his wife Natalie with her Nat’s Bread Company booth.

Sage Noxon shared the bounty from Vicki’s Veggies at Morrison Point, PEC.



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