Mar 13 2015

Episode 24 – Tara Whitsitt of Fermentation on Wheels

Tara Whitsitt of Fermentation on Wheels

Today I have on the show an interesting girl named Tara Whitsitt, whose mission it is to teach people across the country about fermentation and how she does that is she travels in a bus she’s called Fermentation on Wheels.

She has a mobile fermentation lab that drives across the country and gives workshops on how to ferment, make wine, sauerkraut, pickles and any other number of tasty treats that she comes across. She also hosts a culture swap and truly spreads the culture as she travels and meets people from place to place.

She recently had a great article in the New York Times about her calling her The Johnny Appleseed of Pickling.

I enjoyed hearing the highway “on the road” type of feel that was recorded in her background noise and hope you enjoy our conversation.



  • Tara explains what the Fermentation on Wheels project is about and what she’s trying to accomplish with it
  • She talks about how she’s been traveling since 2013 and the many places her fermentation bus has visited and where she’s taught workshops at
  • How communities of people are similar to the communities on the microscale of bacteria and microorganisms that we work with in fermentation and our cultures
  • She goes into the challenges of traveling on the road with different ferments and how some don’t like the agitation like vinegary kombucha and others like wines and water kefir seem to enjoy it
  • After her recent publicity being in the New York Times and being called “The Johnny Appleseed of Pickling” she talks about some of the notoriety has been very positive and helpful in her goals and gives her a credibility that makes it much easier to find places to host her
  • Along with the notoriety comes more work which can be a balancing act with life
  • Tara talks about how she has such a passion and desire to learn and how it drives her to keep reaching out to people
  • She goes back in time to 2011 when she first got into fermenting and what some of her first ferments were that she made being sauerkraut and pickles
  • One of things she tells people is that with fermentation, one of the main things is that you just keep trying and keep experimenting with the raw ingredients that you love
  • She goes into what her workshops are like and how she makes a community out of the event and ties each workshop to the last and the next workshop and people get to taste the previous batches and make new batches for the upcoming community
  • Tara talks about the makings of how the Fermentation on Wheels bus came to be and how and opportunity presented itself for a change of life and how a couple travelers inspired her with their adventures in a converted bus
  • She talks about how a dream turned into reality and from then on created a mission and went school bus shopping which led her to a woman that was so interested in her dream she wanted to help get it off the ground
  • She goes over how residing in a bus over the long term, especially in colder climates requires modifications like a wood burner stove and some other interesting projects relating to fermentation like her 3-tier fermentation station
  • Another one of Tara’s fermentations early on was wine making and she goes into that with types of wine she’s made from fruit, the type of yeast she likes the best, and also some on different types of cyser she enjoys making which is an apple honey wine
  • Not only does she ferment but she visits farmers on the road where she can ferment a variety of different organic produce to make tasty ferments
  • From a picture of blueberries on her website, she describes a beer that she made into a blueberry mint lemon balm ale
  • Having a kegerator on the bus and making beer and wine proves to be nice barter items that she can trade for things on her travels
  • Since she’s travels all over while fermenting, she talks about how temperature can be a challenge while fermenting and how the bus can get fairly hot and also fair cold
  • You can say that Tara has quite a large collection of ferments and she talks about how sometimes she has to let some of them go and then picks up new cultures on the way like her many kombucha cultures
  • She talks about how she’ll make the exact same drink like a water kefir with the same ingredients but use a different culture and how they can turn out tasting different
  • She talks a bit about sourdough and how she doesn’t have an oven on the bus but likes to make sourdough pancakes on the bus
  • Speaking of sourdough, she has a 90 year old sourdough starter from Alaska with an interesting starter feed and a 10 year old rye sourdough starter, and yet another that’s fed with a sauerkraut brine instead of water
  • She talks a bit about meeting Sandor Katz and staying with him for a few days in Liberty Tennessee
  • Surprisingly she admits the hardest thing about travelling is actually driving the bus
  • If she had only a handful of ferments she could bring off her bus in a hurry, which ones would they be?
  • She talks a bit about jun which is green tea kombucha that’s fed with honey
  • How having a culture swap and selling cultures can be a good source of incoming to help Fermentation on Wheels
  • She goes into what happens if she gets mold and her thoughts on it and even a case of black soldier fly larvae which are amazing composters
  • Tara talks about what she uses as fermentation vessels and using rocks as fermentation weights for her jars
  • I bring up my new favorite snack that I’ve been making which is Melanie Hoffman’s recipe of Pickle Me Too of fermented Indian spiced cauliflower
  • Tara gives some of her thoughts on the health aspects of fermentation and if she notices any health benefits from it
  • She also gives beginners some good advice and helps to calm people’s fears on getting involved in fermentation and joining the community of people who love to do this






I’d love to hear your thoughts on today’s show so be sure to comment below or if you have an idea for the show, email me at paul at fermentationpodcast.com or just click on the Contact button on top of this page and fill out the form. I look forward to hearing from you!


Skip to comment form

  1. Richard

    This the perfect season for fermenting garden produce, also a great time for another episode of the fermentation podcast.

    1. Paul Bates

      I know Richard! It’s beautiful out down here in Florida. I’m sure you’re getting all of your summer harvest put away? I know it’s been a while since the last podcast but I’m still fermenting! I’ve gone through about 1 gallon of that jalepeno hot sauce in the past 2 months. Ha!

  2. Sam

    Fermenting awhile before the next podcast?

    1. Paul Bates

      Haha! Good one. I’ve been pretty busy at my new job so it’s been hard to get back to the podcast. I’ve still been fermenting though!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Join the Culture! Subscribe to Get Blog & Podcast Updates by Email:

* indicates required