Faith in Fermentation
Joe Gady’s Farming for Life wins over believers in kraut and kimchi
Joe Gady preaches the gospel of funk and fermentation.
The owner of Farming for Life uses his collection of ceramic crocks to turn vegetables, sea salt and herbs into sauerkraut and kimchi. He and his employees add water, tea and sweetener to jars of kombucha that are continuously brewing.
Managing the bad bacteria so the good ones thrive over time helps the staff produce 12 recipes of vegetables and 10 fermented drinks. Those are sold via 25 markets or co-ops around northern Indiana and Chicago. Gady often teaches classes at these locations about lacto-fermented food.
Gady will tell you that these foods are also medicine. “People ask, ‘Which one will help my gout?’ I say, ‘All of them.’” says Gady, in his basement kitchen along Rochester’s Main Street.
He says he hasn’t been to a doctor in 15 years, since he first encountered lacto-fermented food and then became one of its biggest cheerleaders. He was an organic farmer attending a conference when he heard about them for the first time. He was intrigued with how fermentation powers nutrition. He began by experimenting with fermented green cabbage and hasn’t stopped.
He trusts the bacteria so much that he and his employees don’t wear gloves as they pack crocks with raw vegetables or bottle products. The good bacteria would kill any bad bacteria, he says. He tells health inspectors that, too, though some are understandably dubious.
His many classes sometimes include those inspectors, and at least one has become a customer, he says.
It’s not that he doesn’t value cleanliness or sanitation. It’s just that he chooses to love the microbes rather than be a germophobe. As his employee Michele Yazel says of our society, as she fills jars with kimchi, “We’ve antibacterialized everything.”
The human gut has hundreds of varieties of bacteria, and a lot of things kill them, Gady says. “The gut biome is where 90% of our immunity system starts.”
He encourages others to consume several tablespoons of kimchi or kraut before every meal. He enjoys them and eats them regularly. Kraut, kimchi and kombucha don’t make most of the health food lists that blueberries, garlic and almonds do, but Gady says fermented food “is THE superfood.”
He hears from customers how his fermented foods reduce acid reflux, cure gout and keep their health in balance. His Aged Fermented Supertonic, whose recipe may go back as far as the Middle Ages, is shelf-stable, smelly and strong. Gady recommends it for colds and more. It helped one customer digest foods he hadn’t been able to enjoy in 50 years, he says.
That drink isn’t the most delicious of Farming for Life’s products, though chef Andrew Jones, co-owner of Rua in Warsaw, gave it to a customer who said she had indigestion and it cured it. Jones is a fan of Gady and what he produces. “He’s a farmer and an artist as well,” Jones says. Gady’s fermented foods are packed with flavor, and though it’s rare for Rua to serve a condiment it doesn’t make, Jones is happy to rely on Gady for this one. The pumpkin kimchi is being served with bibimbap, a Korean dish of rice and vegetables.
Rua also turns Farming for Life carrots, grown on the two acres near Argos, into charred, glazed deliciousness on the plate. Farming for Life raised a literal ton of carrots in 2016, Gady says.
“It’s a learning curve, always,” he says. “Hopefully we’re learning smart.”
In addition to helping customers navigate what he helps microbes make, he’s helped other producers get started in Indiana. Gady is an evangelist and whether it’s someone making or eating, he’s just happy the ancient message is taking root in a new way in the Midwest.
Farming for Life
7481 N. 50 W.
Argos, IN 46501
Argos, IN 46501
Find your faith in fermentation by trying out this Raw Cultured Vegetables recipe.