Earlier this month we braved the snowy roads to head over to the East Side and gather at the Wilmar Neighborhood Center for our first face-to-face organizational meeting. The purpose of this meeting was to finally put faces to names, but also to work on solidifying the vision for the group, as well as to continue brainstorming group function, logistics, and plan future events.
There were a lot of great ideas and really great feedback, and it became clear how effective in-person group meetings can be. I was particularly pleased by people’s enthusiasm for expanding the group to be a resource beyond skill-share classes – some new ideas were even brought to the table, including a) organizing field trips, b) working with farmers to plan group produce buys, and c) using the listserv and Facebook page as community support and fermentation troubleshooting resources. To summarize, the group now has four pillars of function:
Follow this link (google doc) to read the full outline of what we covered in the meeting.
How the blog works
I envision this blog having three purposes:
1. Giving updates and recaps about MFC events
2. Sharing and signal boosting cool resources like websites, articles, videos
3. Documenting the process of forming a collective like MFC, in the hopes that the information is helpful to others
Anyone in the collective is welcome and encouraged to share on this blog. Here's to future pickling!
Note: this is the 2nd part of a 2-part series.
Once I had received enough feedback, the next step was communicating individually with each person that had expressed interest in the initial idea. In order to keep the group moving in a direction that everyone was enthusiastic about, I wanted to establish a solid baseline of people's previous previous experiences with fermentation, as well as their motivations for joining the group and their opinions on what the functions of the group should be. To do this, I sent out a survey that looked something like this:
Thanks so much for your interest in the fermentation collective! I’ve received some really enthusiastic responses so far, so I’m really excited to get the ball rolling.
If you have a few spare moments, would you mind answering the questions below? It's a general survey I'm sending out to everyone who's expressed interest in the group, and your response would be really helpful for me in starting to get the group organized.
1. From the interest I've received, it looks like there would be a variety of different kinds of events:
(a) in-depth house workshops (skill shares)
covering a single topic;
(b) tips/discussion sessions covering multiple topics;
(c) potluck dinners/swaps;
(d) casual “making parties”;
(e) larger-scale events where either I or someone else teaches
a community-oriented class/workshop in a community space
Which of these would you be interested in attending? Are there any other types of events you would be interested in?
2. Would you be interested in hosting an event? For example, a smaller workshop in your home. If you were to ever host an event, you would have complete say over the number of people, type of event, duration, time, etc - I would work with you to make sure it was something you were 100% comfortable hosting.
3. Would you be interested in leading/teaching an event? If so, what would be the focus? It can be anything, as long as it's fermentation related.
For example, you could teach a hands-on class about how to make sauerkraut, or you could teach the history of mezcal, or you could lead us on a multi-point discussion of why your favorite beer brewing airlock is indisputably the best.
Note: You don't need to be an expert on anything! I'm happy to help leaders/teachers develop their materials, and I think the most important thing is that you're enthusiastic. They say the best way to learn is to teach.
4. If you don't want to solo lead/teach (or even if you do), would you be interested in leading/teaching with another person?
5. Would you be interested in helping me organize the collective? Depending on your level of interest, this could involve anything from helping to set up and moderate events to developing a website, and would be completely up to you.
6. Would you be interested in meeting up briefly with other people in the collective (perhaps at a coffee shop or my house) some time in the next month to meet everyone in the group and do a little organizing/planning/brainstorming? If you don't want to, that's okay too! We can always send out notes from the meeting.
Thanks again - I really appreciate your interest and I'll keep you in the loop as things progress!
I was going to write a post entirely dedicated to question #1 and how I decided on those types of events, but figured they were pretty much intuitive. It goes without saying that before you start making a group you have a good idea of what you want the group to do - in my case, I wanted the group to be a teaching and social exchange at a small-scale/intimate level, but also able and willing to use our pooled knowledge to coordinate larger community events.
Note: this is the 1st part of a 2-part series.
I've wanted to start a fermentation enthusiasts group for a long time and, fortunately, Madison seems like the perfect place to do so. I suspect that this is because there are a lot of people around who are interested in food and fermentation, but the product market is nowhere near saturated (save for bread, cheese, and alcohol), leading to a lot of interest in home fermentation. This is only speculation formed from talking with people in the area, however.
The first step in starting the collective was verifying a sufficient interest in actually forming the collective. To do this, I found UW Madison to be an incredible resource. Being a college town, nearly everyone is connected to the university in one way or another, and there are listservs that loads of people are on (many of them not students) because they often post about events, trades, sales, etc. that are happening in the city. That's not to say I spammed listservs - on the contrary, I ended up having to send only a single email to a single listserv (that focuses on environmetal studies) and was able to gain the amount of interest I was looking for (I set a goal of about 20 people to start). The email looked something like this:
I’m an enthusiast of all things fermented, and think it would be fun get like-minded people together to share knowledge about home fermentation (and possibly swap homemade goodies). Specifically, I’m looking for people interested in teaching, attending, or hosting some small class/workshop/skill sharing events focused on any kind of fermented food/drink – from bread to kraut, miso to chicha.
If this sounds like something that might tickle your fancy, please send me a message! I’ve also put together some more information about my plan, which you can read here.
Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you!
The link is to a google doc with a slightly more fleshed-out proposal - I would have included the information in the initial email itself, but decided it was more important to keep it short and sweet.
Had reaching out to the listserv not been enough, or had I not had the resource in the first place, I would have most likely put up flyers in the area - most likely around places where people buy their food. It's important that the group is made up of members of the local community, after all.