In 2009, Michael Stusser, owner of Osmosis, looked at the businesses in his tiny town and became inspired by an unlikely common thread: fermentation. Teaming with a local bakery and winery (and in the process discovering several small-scale food producers making fermented foods in the area), Stusser created the Freestone Fermentation Festival (FFF). The event takes place annually in a LEED-certified community building—and it builds community! Not only does the festival bring together local residents for food tastings, music, enzyme baths (courtesy of Osmosis), speakers and children’s festivities; the FFF raises funds for the local Ceres Community Project, a program that teaches kids how to source local organic ingredients and also feeds people with life-threatening diseases, to encourage recovery.
“The event has a tremendous impact, and extends our reach into so many aspects of the community,” enthuses Stusser. “Last year, 1,000 people showed up—we generated goodwill and raised money [more than $5,000]; we were surprised at how many people were interested in the movement.” This influx of festival attendees also infuses money into the local economy.
Osmosis’ portable enzyme baths showcase a popular service to festival attendees, while garden tours and an open house on the day of the event allow them to check out the spa’s grounds and facilities. Stusser keeps extra staff on hand to manage the attendees; arranges sponsorships with local-minded companies such as Whole Foods to help defray costs; and recruits volunteers to work the event. Best of all, the spa has learned to work with members of the ever-growing fermentation movement, which promotes healthy eating—a perfect alignment with the spa’s mission of overall wellness. “Spa owners should find out how they can collaborate with other businesses that have common interests,” Stusser recommends. “By coalescing people around a common interest, we found a community we didn’t even know existed!”