The story of Costa Mesa, Calif.-Fermentation Farm begins much like many others, with a mom in search of better nutrition for her children. From that inspiration, Orange County’s Yasmine Mason, a chiropractor by trade, decided to share her discoveries with the world and Fermentation Farm, a hub for all things cultured and fermented, was born.
Brad Hill joined Fermentation Farm a few months after it opened in 2014, is now the director of marketing. He brings to the mix his background as a digital marketer and personal mission to spread the gospel of health eating. Hill, with great passion, speaks to Fermentation Farm’s place in the community.
“When ownership first started, they were not sure the store was going to go. They wondered if people were prepared to jump on board and accept this new idea of fermented food products,” recalled Hill. “The idea was to build it like a co-op where people in the community invest in the idea.”
As with other co-ops, Fermentation Farm charges a membership fee–$5 per month or $25 for lifetime access. Hill said one reason for the charge is to recognize the dedication that goes into their production process. Ingredients are hand peeled, and every step of making kombucha, fermented vegetables and sauerkraut (to name a few products) are done with painstaking care.
Hill sees Fermentation Farm’s members—now numbering more than 2,100– as participants in a crowdfunding exercise much like you would find on Kickstarter. As the number of fermented followers grows (the folks aren’t fermented, but the probiotic delights are), the business will expand. For example, as the ranks of its consumers grew, a second kitchen opened two doors down from the main store with a new brewing facility in the works which will pump out 100 gallons of kombucha per week. The store’s marketing guru says the goal is to keg more of the kombucha and get it into local cafes and restaurants.
The store has become more than a center for Fermentation Farm’s own products which include fermented soda, water kefir grains, kits for home brewers and even fermented cod liver oil. With the spirit of community as its mantra, the retail space has become a hub for local artisans to sell their goods. Hill said, at this point, the store is split 50-50 between its own products and those from outside vendors.
Growth plans for Fermentation Farms follow a logical path. For a business that deploys old-world techniques of creating probiotics goodies, the future is built on a decidedly modern approach. “One nice thing about membership is that we are able to gather data on our customers,” Hill explains. “With that information, we know other possible areas of expansion based on where our customers live. It gives us a built-in market.”
Describing Fermentation Farm as a retail storefront that sells trendy probiotic and gluten-free goods does not do it justice. The store blends small-batch crocks of Lacto-fermented vegetables with such modern touches as in-store seminars and healthy cooking classes (led by Hill). As you enter the store, a Kombucha bar is on the left and a retail space on right. Hill said they want people to immerse themselves in the experience by tasting taste everything and asking questions. “We want to make sure people are really happy with what they are getting,” Hill noted.
The Costa Mesa store features 15 flavors of kombucha, with six taps constantly rotating. Theirs is a fruit-based kombucha that uses a 21-day fermentation, which includes organic cane sugar as well as green and black teas with local fruits.
“Our goal is to be the best fruit-based kombucha in Southern California,” Hill adds. With the small batch approach, combined with the focus on “community” and smart grown, there is every reason to believe Fermentation Farm could become a Southern California staple.