Sandor Katz, Sauerkraut and Song at the Third Annual Freestone Fermentation Festival, A Benefit for the Ceres Community Project

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Fermentation guru Sandor Katz, recently profiled in The New Yorker, will explain the numerous benefits of fermented foods as part of the Third Annual Freestone Fermenation Festival in beautiful Sonoma County on Saturday, May, 21. The unique one day event offers delicious cuisine, special activities for children, food judging contests and music. Early bird tickets are $12 for adults, $7 for children. Noon to five.

"Fermentation is the next big thing in healthy eating," says Michael Stusser, co-founder of the festival.

Bay Area residents who’ve always wanted to sink their hands into a vat of sauerkraut or soft cheese will get their chance this spring. After two successful years, the Third Annual Freestone Fermentation Festival on Saturday, May 21, promises to be a major Sonoma County event, featuring author Sandor Katz, the rock star of the fermentation movement. A self proclaimed ‘fermentation fetishist,’ the engaging Katz was profiled in The New Yorker’s food issue last November, and is flying in to extol and explain the advantages of eating sauerkraut, cheese, kombucha and other fermented delights.

In addition to Katz, this family friendly community event – the only one of its kind in California - features a full afternoon schedule of do-it-yourself workshops, exhibits, delectable cuisine, and special activities for the younger crowd. An eclectic line up of bands and singers will showcase the area’s musical talent, from Celtic to carnival drumming. The festival/fundraiser begins at noon and ends at 5 p.m. in the town of Freestone, located between Sebastopol and Bodega Bay. Tickets are now available online, at early bird prices are $12 for adults and $6 for children. Children under three are free.

As a companion event to Saturday’s Freestone festivities, a fermentation symposium and dinner extraordinaire is planned for Friday, May 20, at the facilities of beautiful Shone Farm, a 365 acre teaching venue for Santa Rosa Junior College, near Forestville. Featuring a high profile line-up of experts from the medical, culinary and scientific communities, the panel discussion takes place from 1p.m to 5 p.m., and will be followed by a tour of Shone Farm grounds. At 7 p.m., a feast of local wines paired with a variety of fermented dishes created by a host of master chefs -- including John Ash -- will be served onsite, and is limited to 120 guests. “These dishes will astound the taste buds and fire up the imagination,” says Ash. Ticket prices and dinner information will be available on the website by February 18.

As old as civilization, fermentation is becoming a cause célèbre in the cuisine world, with foodies of every stripe and background proclaiming its many benefits. Influential writer Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma) is including a chapter on fermentation in his next book. Not only is a little bacteria good for the immune system, but the strong and complex flavors of fermented foods are a tasty addition to whatever menu is being served.

“The west county has been a vital center for healthy habits that are now taken for granted, such as eating locally and seasonally, and organic farming,” says Michael Stusser, founder of Osmosis Spa, and one of the festival’s key sponsors. “Fermentation is the next big thing, and we’re thrilled to have generated so much interest in only three years.” Stusser is a well known spa leader, having brought fermentation bathing from Japan to California with the cedar enzyme bath. Festival guests will be able to sample an aromatic footbath during the event. Other Open House treats and tours will be offered in Freestone at Osmosis, Wild Flour Bakery, Enduring Comforts and Freestone Vineyards.

Event goers will not only be helping themselves to a unique day of food celebration, they’ll be helping others heal through food. All proceeds from the festival benefit Sonoma County’s Ceres Community Project, a non-profit that provides an astonishing 30,000 free meals each year to individuals and families dealing with cancer and other life threatening illnesses. These meals are prepared by volunteer teen chefs who learn about preparing and eating locally grown organic food, and the value of giving back to their community.

For more information on sponsorship opportunities and tickets to the festival, symposium and dinner, log onto Advance purchase is recommended.

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Colleen Craig

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