by Kelli Boylen
Five years ago when Eric and Sarah Underberg started making fermented foods most people had never heard of the idea.
|Sarah was interviewed on WHBF-TV on September 20, 2017 and snapped this selfie.|
Nowadays, most people have heard of kombucha and sauerkraut, but there are many other products including fermented hummus, kimchi, pickles, salsas, and traditional sourdough bread.
Eric started exploring fermented foods to improve his own health. “My husband started making fermented foods to heal his body after years of abuse from college football and working as a master carpenter,” shared his wife Sarah. “He began making milk kefir and sauerkraut and eating it every day. I was not interested in the beginning, however his passion for spreading the truth about food was so profound that I jumped on board. After about six months of Eric consuming these foods and the almost immediate bounce back, he talked to me at length about how we needed to share this information and food with others. That is when we decided to put everything we had into this business,” says Sarah.
They founded Agri-Cultured in 2012 in Dallas Center, Iowa with a small, licensed kitchen. They started making five-gallon batches of sauerkraut and kimchi.
“It was so important to us that we make the transition to whole food eating so easy, that people didn’t even realize they were eating ‘healthy.’ That’s why we offer the flavors that we do,” she said, adding, “Our company is the “gateway” drug to fermented foods...ie...easy on taste, pairs well with so many other foods and it gives us the opportunity to plant the seed of cultured food.”
“Marketing has not been an easy accomplishment,” said Sarah. “I signed up for every Farmers’ Market I could find and we drove all over promoting our products. Our family was a huge help and were behind us 100%! We reached out to a local grocery store, Campbell’s Nutrition, a place offering good food for 80 years. They agreed to carry our products and it was a really amazing experience. Everywhere I went, I talked to people, handed out business cards, and encouraged people to call me directly with any questions."
At first they found that “Most people believed that fermented meant rotten!" Within recent years, however, fermentation has gained new respect. More research has looked at the biochemistry, and people like Dr. Oz and Dr. Axe started discussing the important role that fermented foods play in our overall health. "Once someone tried our products, they were usually hooked on the flavor and their bodies were hooked on the benefits.”
The probiotic properties of fermented foods are beneficial to digestion and may improve bioavailability of nutrients, among other things.
“We started Agri-Cultured after experiencing the wellness building properties of fermented and cultured foods for ourselves. As we began to research, we realized that traditionally fermented foods play a crucial role in gut health, the basis of our immune system,” said Sarah after healing herself of many autoimmune diseases with the help of fermented foods.
Agri-Cultured products include garlic dill kraut, old school kraut, real dill pickles, smokin’ dill pickles, cowboy kimchee, original kimchi, vegan kimchi, habanero mango kraut and jalapeno ginger kraut.
Kombucha flavors are blueberry pomegranate, cherry ginger, summer breeze, raspberry, strawberry, sarah smiles, cranberry-tangerine-turmeric, and ginger. They also make fermented hummus as well as long ferment sourdough bread and naan bread.
Agri-Cultured products are in Chicago, Rock Island, IL, Bettendorf, Davenport, Iowa City, Coralville, Cedar Rapids, Ely, Des Moines, Ankeny, Altoona, Waukee and West Des Moines. “We are actively searching for more places to branch out to,” said Sarah.
They are looking forward to attending Feast for the first time this year. “We are very excited to be able to reach out to another area and share our knowledge and experience in what fermented foods can do for you, your health, your family and your wellness.”
You can meet Eric and Sarah at Feast on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017 at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, Minn., from 10 am to 4 pm. The day will be well spent, with scores of different food businesses exhibiting in addition to chef demos, workshops and kids activities.