Bokashi Expert’s Guide Part 3 of 3 – Bokashi Sustainable Farming Practices, Cycling Food Waste Intelligently

In the midst of all the bad news about climate change, poisons in the water supply, soil, and food supply it is most encouraging to discover how creative we are in finding solutions to these problems and I for one am an advocate for and believe in the possibility of making a positive change.  There are great possibilities before us and the future is looking brighter in so many ways.

The good news is that we are able to shape our future in a positive way by making good choices.   Individuals are making choices.   In think in the farming communities and in the grass root choices that people are taking upon their own initiative we are solving important problems.

We’ve been advocating recycling organic waste in a responsible way to minimize polluting, to recover useful nutrients that can be used to feed plants, and to prevent the movement of organic recyclable materials to the landfill and to get them out of composting sites because they are in fact more efficiently and cost effectively processed by fermenting anaerobically.  Here we are advocating acidic anaerobic fermentation popularly known as Bokashi fermenting.

We already discussed the mechanisms involved in the process and those who are still confused about methane production should review the information we have already provided or discuss the issue with a competent microbiologist or chemist.  It is a matter of fact that methanogens, the methane producers are incapable of surviving or functioning in a bokashi fermenting system.  No methane is produced in an acidic anaerobic process.

Consumer Supported Agriculture:

One of the encouraging trends in consumer activity relates to the growing trend over the last 20 years to buy produce locally.  Farmer markets are thriving and a lot of fun. It  clearly makes a lot of sense to buy food products produced locally because less energy is required in transporting those products to market.  Food is fresher and requires no chemical preserving.

There is also a savings on packaging with fewer petro chemicals diverted to packaging when food is taken at a farmers market.  We all benefit in this process.  Should we be concerned about local grown food quality?   Of course!  There’s the good news.  Farmers and the community are joining together to make it better.  Consumers can find a CSA participating farm willing to sell high quality produce directly at a discount benefitting the farmer and the consumer.

  CSA Farms in the US

  CSA Farms in the US

Consumers want to buy directly.  Farmers get better pricing.  You want high quality tasty produce as fresh as possible.  It’s a simple idea.  Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a membership program widely adopted across the US.  In many areas the waiting list to become a member far exceeds the membership in a local CSA.  The local produce market is widely adapted in many parts of the world where farmer markets are common place.

There are approximately 2 million farms in the US and 80% are small farms.  Many farmers are now organizing and working directly with their consumers setting into play the CSA program.  Consumers contract with the farmer and those smaller farmers are advocating organic methods in producing their crops.  They are getting away from pesticides and fertilizers that toxify soil and product.  We all stand to benefit.  How will we sustain those farming practices?  How can we make the soil better able to meet the demand for produce.

Sustainable Farming Practices:

A sustainable farming practice is hard to achieve using traditional methods in farming.  Soils require nutrients to feed the crops.  We are today aware that it is microbial populations that play an equally if not possibly even more important role in healthy soils needed to support crops and produce.

Adding petro chemical fertilizers and pesticides invariably suppress the natural diverse microbial activity in the soil and these practices have resulted in unnatural soil conditions that are less able to yield consistent quality output.  Those chemicals used to “improve” the soil end up in the food chain too………a risk we should not be willing to accept.

Recycling organic waste to the farm by composting is one approach but in practice it is impractical to meet the growing demand for food production.  It takes too much energy and time.  It requires a lot of energy.  It releases to the atmosphere heat, carbon dioxide, and water vapor and if done poorly numerous other green house gases are also produced.  If we are polluting and changing the weather conditions as we farm we are not truly sustainable.

Rotating crops to fix nitrogen has been for many years a standard practice but it can not meet the demand and we can not afford to leave lands fallow.

Sustainability means we have to match production methods and consuming (purchasing) methods to minimize damage done to the air, water and soil.   It needs to be done in such a manner that quality is sustained.  With ever increasing demand for quality products that stress our soils, water, and the air comes the responsibility of finding a sustainable solution.

We know that we are doing a poor job of recycling our waste materials.  We consume and discard with little regard for how that discarded material could pollute and damage the soil.  Landfills are obvious problems.

Cities are advocating consumers send their organic waste curbside so it can then be delivered to composting “factories” releasing into the atmosphere tons of carbon dioxide, clearly contributing to global warming, tying up precious land that could be used in a better way, and burning much petro fuel hauling and processing the organic waste.  They should be adopting bokashi fermenting on an industrial scale.

Home owners may choose to bokashi ferment the organic waste on site instead of sending it curbside.  If you bokashi ferment your own food scraps you eliminate smelly garbage that attracts insects, rats and vermin and get the benefit of converting food waste to fertilizer for your garden and house plants.

New Earth Farm and Bon Appetit – Eastablish Sustainable Farming

We need to get restaurants, schools and factories generating waste material in the loop recycling intelligently.  Bon Appetit Management Company has become a model for what can be done in sustainability.  They are a restaurant company that has for years taken responsibility in ecologically handling food.

They support local grown food for their restaurants and have in Oregon closed the loop sending waste material from the restaurant back to the farm for processing back to soil to feed future crops.  They have partnered with Dos Sequoias and the New Earth Farm establishing a truly sustainable farming practice.

New Earth Farm Processing Bon Appetit Food Waste using Bokashi Fermenting

Abundant Harvest is a CSA located in Hillsboro, Oregon providing fresh, healthy produce to consumers in their community.

Farming is done at Dos Squoias Farm and New Earth Farm and the owners, Scott Olsen and Steve Radtke, are working together producing high quality produce and have taken an important step in establishing a sustainable farming practice.  They are using bokashi fermenting to recover nutrients from waste material.

Scott had previously tried composting food scraps but found it was taking a lot of time and the turn over was far too slow to work into the soil in a sustainable way.  Since he has started bokashi fermenting the process seems much easier.  Food scraps are placed in 55 gallon fermenters and allowed to process 1 week.  They are then placed on an off-loader to drain the bokashi tea (used as a liquid fertilizer on crops after diluting 1: 100 in water).

It takes about 7 days to ferment the food scraps from Bon Appetit.  After collecting the liquid nutrients, the fermented waste is tilled into the soil easily with a tractor and tilling attachment.  In this example ¾ ton of fermented material was tilled into a strip of soil 2 feet by 100 feet and showed rapid metabolism by soil microbes within the week (photo insert).

Numerous measurements on crop yields and soil quality will be obtained to establish and document efficiencies in waste recycling at the New Earth Farm throughout the year.  The speed at which the waste material is returned to the soil is very evident and as has been noted in other discussions on the subject, virtually all of the material is going back to the soil as opposed to only about half of the nutrients in composting.

Here we see that a full cycle has been achieved.  High quality produce was grown and sold to the Bon Appetit restaurant.  Consumers at the restaurant enjoyed a healthy tasty meal prepared by great chefs.  Nothing was discarded and wasted.  Scraps were returned to the farm and rapidly using bokashi fermenting put back to the soil for subsequent product.

Soil nutrients and microbes are supported and rejuvenated.  Green house gases are minimized in recycling.  We’ve minimized the use of petro fuels and can grow our produce organically without a reliance on pesticides and fertilizers.  This is a truly sustainable cycle.

In our next blog we will provide additional information and tips on residential bokashi fermenting and yard waste handling.

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