It came to her while she was sleeping.
Tara Whitsitt dreamed she was driving a school bus around the country and fermenting foods.
"Of course, I thought it was funny," Whitsitt said. "I didn't think I was actually going to do it."
But then she had the dream again, and again.
So the Eugene, Ore., native went school bus shopping and founded Fermentation on Wheels -- a traveling food education project.
Last August, Whitsitt, who is also an artist, set out on a year-long tour across the country. She will stop in Beaufort on March 20 to hold a workshop on sourdough starters and the benefits of vegetable fermentation. Sea Islands Local Outlet -- SILO, a local food hub in Beaufort -- is hosting the workshop in partnership with Beaufort Memorial's LifeFit Wellness Center.
"I decided I wanted to travel, to make art and teach, and to inspire people to live more simply and more sustainably," Whitsitt said.
ENERGY OF FOOD
Fermentation is the process of converting a carbohydrate, such as starch or a sugar, into an alcohol or acid. It is used to produce products such as yogurt, beer and sourdough bread and as a preservation technique in pickling vegetables, resulting in foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi. Fermented foods have beneficial probiotics to boost the immune system and enzymes that aid digestion.
"Food is undergoing a transformation and developing good bacteria," Whitsitt said.
Whitsitt began learning about the health benefits of fermentation at age 20 when she was living in Denmark, where she said fermented foods are very common, but her interest in food started at a young age.
"I have also been super fascinated by food, and especially the energy of food, where it comes from and how it gets to me," Whitsitt said.
Both her parents work in the sciences, so Whitsitt grew up surrounded by talk of how everything is connected to science, especially food.
"My mother is a chemist. When she was teaching me how to cook, she would be talking about the different processes that occur, how to bring flavors out and how all that actually happens," Whitsitt said.
And throughout the years, Whitsitt has personally experienced health benefits she attributes to incorporating more fermented food into her diet.
"Something eating more fermented food has done for me is I have not been sick in three years. I don't even get colds. It helps build a lot of resilience in our system."
The Fermentation on Wheels tour started in Oregon, went down the West Coast and through the Southwest. Whitsitt said the response from those regions was good, but information about fermentation and sustainable living wasn't really news to there.
"Sustainable living is being adapted at a faster rate on the West Coast. It's super progressive," Whitsitt said.
But arriving to the South, Whitsitt experienced a new level of support and appreciation.
"The South has been really incredible to me. There's so much interest and support," Whitsitt said. "I definitely think people are hungry for it."
Her first Southern stop was in New Orleans at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. The turnout was double the average attendance of her previous stops -- the bus was packed, with people lining the sidewalk.
"It was a huge turning point for me," Whitsitt said. "I've been booked non-stop since I got to New Orleans. Things have just been on the upswing since then, and I've gotten good recognition for what I'm doing."
Follow reporter Laura Oberle at twitter.com/IPBG_Laura.