FARMINGTON — Fermentation increases the health benefits of foods, and everything can be fermented.

Those were among the messages shared during a workshop on “The Lost Culinary Arts: Ferments, Tonics and Tinctures,” which kicked off the Catholic Rural Life Festival being presented by St. Joseph Parish in Farmington and St. Rose of Lima Parish in Jay.

“This is a carrot. This is the healthiest thing. How could this be more healthy for you? Through the process of fermentation,” Daja Gombojav told a group, as they sipped elderberry tea in the St. Joseph Parish Hall.

The festival on Sept. 13 to 17 included workshops, dinners and liturgies designed to highlight the beauty and grace of rural life, and to bring awareness to the call to be stewards of creation.

“I really think it’s about showing our presence in the community,” said Kathleen Pike, a parishioner from Jay. “It addresses rural life in Maine, and I’m a little bit passionate about that because I think we have a lot to offer in these towns, and I think that church life is part of that, and we can have a better presence.”

The festival featured a healthy combination of food and faith. It offered demonstrations on how to make pies, cheese and wood-fired rye bread. It also included benediction, night prayer and special Masses. On Saturday there was a solemn procession and a blessing of the fields at noon and in the evening, a farm-to-table dinner featuring foods from many local farms was served.

Some of the vegetables fermented during the opening day workshop were shared during the dinner. Gombojav, who led the workshop along with KelLee Gray, said people don’t realize the health benefits that come with eating fermented foods.

In addition to learning about fermentation, the group tried their hand at it. While they were cutting carrots, celery and other vegetables in the hall, around the corner in the kitchen another group was stirring and straining, as they learned how to make blackberry jelly. The workshop was led by Annamaria Beal, a parishioner from Avon, who learned how to make jelly from her mother and has been doing it for 60 years. She said the keys to success are using fresh berries and getting the timing just right, something she accomplishes by mixing in a little prayer.

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A student learns how to ferment during a culinary class presented during the Catholic Rural Life Festival in Farmington. 

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