Take a DIY skoolie bus and one West Coast woman’s fanaticism for fermented foods and what do you get? Fermentation on Wheels, a culinary education project that’s rolling coast-to-coast while advocating for sustainable living principles, especially through the use of food fermentation.
She’s got a fascination for food fermentation!
Fermentation on Wheels is a mobile culinary education project created by Tara Whitsitt, a Eugene, Oregon artist and gastronomic nomad who believes so strongly that the ancient practice of food fermentation is the key to healthy and sustainable living, that she hit the road to spread the word. And so far, people have been listening. The New York Times has even called her “the Johnny Appleseed of Pickling.”
Fermenting in a DIY skoolie bus food lab.
Fermentation is what happens when you take raw or cooked food and preserve it long enough to create healthy bacteria and pro-biotics.
One of the most well-known fermented foods is yogurt, which replenishes good bacteria in our bodies that gets lost to eating over-processed foods. Kimchi and Kombucha are other old school fermented foods regaining popularity because of their health benefits.
Sourdough bread, wine and cider are more common examples of fermented foods. Whitsett makes all of these on-board the bus and teaches others how to do it at her workshops.
“When we introduce good bacteria to our bodies,” says Whitsitt, “we strengthen our gut, improve immunity, and better our digestive health.”
Taking food fermentation to the masses.
Healthy Living: a DIY Skoolie Bus Food Lab
Full-time RV living doesn’t have to be a fermentation deal-breaker. Fermenting your own foods isn’t complicated – it’s a process that goes back thousands of years. Whitsitt and her cat Franklin have fermented hundreds of foods as they traveled over 15,000 miles in the 40′ long 1986 International Harvester DIY skoolie bus Tara bought for only $6,000.
She’s an off-grid gastronomic nomad.
Tara has retrofitted the DIY skoolie bus food lab with a wood stove and kitchen / workshop. She’s also bartered for help in setting up her solar power system. When she needs to find a place to stay, she isn’t afraid to ask farmers if it’s OK to park on their property.
Fermentation on Wheels enables the 29-year old Whitsitt to earn a living by holding educational food fermentation workshops and culture exchanges in schools, community centers and at festivals. At each stop she meets with kids and adults alike to explain fermented food processing, teach people how to make a variety of fermented foods and debunk myths about the dangers and risks of DIY food fermentation.
Teaching food fermentation from coast-to-coast.
“I make about 40 gallons of fermented food at a time, on my bus, so I have a lot of food,” Whitsett told Collectively.org. “I have a wood-burning stove to heat my bus, I have a propane stove for cooking. When I started on the road, everything I did was barter, and I didn’t use money except for gas—I used workshop donations to fill my tank—but that changed when I got to the East Coast, and people wanted to support me more.”
Whitsitt’s rolling DIY skoolie bus food lab is funded through individual donations, a few grant awards, and a little from selling starter cultures. Fermentation on Wheels is sponsored by a 501(c)(3) arts organization, which enables her to receive tax-deductible donations from other fermentation enthusiasts.
Locate the next Fermentation on Wheels workshop near you!
More DIY food fermentation resources:
- Huge list of 56 DIY recipes
- Don’t make these mistakes when you ferment food
- 20 kid-friendly fermented food receipes