Have you been smelling something funny at this summer’s farmer’s markets? Maybe something a bit sour and overdue? Local resident Allison Sayer has been producing and selling her own live-fermented creations to curious consumers at the market, as well as experienced fermenters.
Born and raised in New York City, Allison Sayer graduated high school there and went straight into AmeriCorps on the West Coast. Later, she studied biology at Smith College, and then went to graduate school at the University of Alaska Anchorage pursuing the same track. She was attracted to the major, because she is passionate about landscape ecology, as well as salmon’s relationship with nature. However, she soon realized that the career (where much of her time would have been spent in a lab) was not quite as fun as the ideas behind it.
Sayer then pursued other opportunities that aligned closer with what she really connected with. She worked in Homer, at the Center for Alaskan Studies, and then at many different cooperatives in Santa Cruz, Calif., including a bike co-op, homeless gardener project, and a chicken sanctuary. Then she returned to Alaska, and worked in McCarthy at the Wrangell Mountains Center as a kitchen manager for three years. There she worked in the garden, held workshops, and served meals to participants. Sayer and the facility manager Jim experimented with varying fermented products. There in the Wrangell kitchen, Sayer discovered her passion for live-fermented foods.
At the Sitka Farmers Market on Aug. 9, you may have noticed the fermentation demonstration booth run by Sitka Local Foods Network intern McLane Ritzel. Live fermentation is an ancient practice, but more recently, it has gained a huge following around the world of interested individuals who want to produce their own food following traditional methods. The practice is communal and artisanal, and when consumed, encourages a healthy gut.
In Sitka, this will be her third year working at Mount Edgecumbe High School, running extracurricular activities after school for the students. She loves her job, and says, “High school students are just so cute!” This summer, she has been working at the Baranof Island Brewing Company brewery.
At home, Sayer spends her time fermenting with produce from her own garden, playing the guitar, reading “too many books at once,” and hiking with her 4-year-old Karellian bear dog, a husky named Tulip.
Come out to this summer’s last Sitka Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 6, at ANB Hall to pick up some of Allison Sayer’s creatively edgy and uniquely delicious homemade Alaskan kimchi, sauerkraut made with varied ingredients, and kombucha, a fermented tea.