Odor Free Piggery

Not only is this article ratherinsightful in terms of soil management, but it describes a protocol for piggeryoperations that turns out to be odor free. The pens are provided with a deep bed of sawdust and wood chips thathave been inoculated with indigenous microbes that consume the waste beenabsorbed by the sawdust.

Wood waste is practically freemost everywhere and conversion to such a system should be painless.  The biggest problem is to overcome one’s socalled common sense.  Actual inoculation mayconsist of adding a few percentage points of local soil into the mulch with arake.

It is also obvious that overtime, as the mulch is slowly turned over, that the available ammonia will allowthe wood waste to be properly reduced to usable soil.  Thus one would expect that after severalyears or so the mulch bed can be returned to the field and to be folded backinto the soils.

Sawdust and wood chips wouldcertainly be superior to straw for this as they are much more absorptive.

Larger operations need only clearthe animals out and drive a cultivator through the bedding material every weekor so to turn it over somewhat.  It couldnot be much easier.

Natural selection

A self-sufficient system of farming is increasing yields across Hawaii

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jan 18, 2011

Farmer Samson Delos Reyes walksthrough rows of kalo at David Wong's Waianae farm. Wong is using a systemcalled natural farming developed in South Korea that has his kalotowering overhead and producing huge basil bushes.

Farmer Samson Delos Reyes reached intohis bluejeans pocket to grab a phone call from a buyer and ended up smiling butshaking his head.

The caller wanted to triple her order of his pungent Thai basil, to 60from 20 cases a week, but S&J Farms of Waianae is already booked solid.Since trying "natural farming" last year under the guidance of afolksy South Korean master farmer known as Han Kyu Cho, Delos Reyes saidproduction on his 10-acre plot has doubled — and demand is growing even faster.

"This is my first time having earthworms on my farm," hesaid, scooping up a handful of earth and nutrient-rich worm castings in hisfingers. "They're cultivating the soil for me."

Unlike conventional or even organic farming, "naturalfarming" is a self-sufficient system to raise crops and livestock withresources available on the farm. Rather than applying chemical fertilizers,farmers boost the beneficial microbes that occur naturally in the soil bycollecting and culturing them with everyday ingredients such as steamed riceand brown sugar. They also feed their crops with solutions containing mineralsand amino acids made from castoff items such as eggshells and fish bones.

"What others consider rubbish, we use," Cho told gardenersand farmers at a workshop in Honolululast month. "Natural farming uses local resources, but you have to givewhat the plants need, when they need it and in the right amounts."

On land once classified as unsuitable for farming, DelosReyes' sturdy stalks of Vietnamese kalo now stand taller than he does, and hisbasil bushes are thick with leaves. He no longer has to buy fertilizer,herbicides or pesticides, and he has cut water use by 30 percent. The indigenousmicroorganisms in the dirt — bacteria, fungi and protozoa — help nourish hiscrops. The plants grow hardier because their roots have to reach further tofind water, according to Cho.

"You use less water, you use less inputs and you end up with a healthierplant which produces more nutritious food, of a higher quality," saidlandowner David Wong, who ran Oahu's last dairy on this Waianae property and isworking with Delos Reyes in the first commercial operation using Cho's methodson Oahu. "Here's a system that is not freight-dependent, and it changesthe economics of how agriculture could be done in Hawaii."

Cho, founder of the Janong Natural Farming Institute in Chungbuk, SouthKorea, held his first workshop in Hilo last February. Dr. Hoon Park, a retiredphysician in Hilo, heads Cho Global Natural Farming-USA, a nonprofit thatpromotes Cho's approach. Its workshop last month was sponsored by the Hawaii FFA Foundation, the Universityof Hawaii College of TropicalAgriculture and Kamehameha Schools, among others.

Across the state, an unusual piggery in Kurtistown on the Big Islandis another showcase for Cho's system of "natural farming." The pigfarm's claim to fame: It does not smell or attract flies or even requirecleaning. And its pigs are thriving.

"It is the first piggery of this kind in the United States," said Michael DuPonte, alivestock extension agent with the University of Hawaii College ofTropical Agriculture and a technical adviser on the demonstration project. "It'sbeen in production for 20 months, and I haven't cleaned the piggery yet. Itlooks the same as the day I opened it. No smell, no flies. It's a combinationof the dry litter soaking up all the liquids and the microbes working togetherto break down the manure."

DuPonte said the idea of not cleaning a pigsty did not sit well withhim at first blush. "When Master Cho came to see me, I was askeptic," DuPonte said. "I asked him, 'What about disease?' You don'tclean a piggery in Hawaii,guarantee your pigs are going to get sick. He said, 'Don't worry about disease.The microbes will take care of that.' I didn't believe him."

But after a trip to Koreato see a piggery in action, DuPonte became a convert. The Kang Farms"Inoculated Dry Litter System" piggery building, opened in August2009 in Kurtistown, measures 30 by 60 feet and handles up to 125 pigs. It usesnatural ventilation and is oriented for sunlight. The pens are filled with adeep bed of dry sawdust and wood chips, spiked with microorganisms cultivatedfrom local soil that help break down the manure. The pigs are fed rationsmade from agricultural waste, including sweet potatoes, macadamia nuts andbananas.

DuPonte says the pigs seem "stress-free and contented," andthey are good neighbors because the piggery produces no waste, runoff ortelltale smell. That is important for Hawaii'sswine farmers, who have been pushed from one location after another byurbanization and complaints from neighbors. The piggery project was supportedby the University of Hawaii, Farm Pilot Project Coordination, Hawaii County andAgribusiness Development Corp., among others.

"Pig farmers are very, very interested in the system,"DuPonte said. "I've had 50 people come in and ask me if I would buildthese piggeries in their place. It's going to take off, mainly because of lackof odor. Pig farmers have been kicked out of Kam IV Road and then Hawaii Kai, and now they're gettingchallenges in Waianae and they don't know where they are going to gonext."
Versions of natural farming have been practiced for generations in Asia. But scientific proof of its efficacy is hard tocome by because it is a complex system that adapts to local conditions, saidTed Radovich, assistant specialist in the Sustainable and Organic FarmingSystems Laboratory at the UH College of Tropical Agriculture.

"It looks like there is value there," Radovich said."There is increasing interest in doing research. While I think there ispotential, we're quite a way from understanding how it works."
He said the appeal of Cho's approach in Hawaii lies in its "localness.""Any system that makes some inroads into decreasing our reliance onexternal inputs and improving the profitability of our local farms is importantto consider," he said. "We're not at the point where we can make recommendationsyet."

DuPonte estimates that 150 people are practicing "naturalfarming" techniques in the Hiloarea, mainly backyard farmers and gardeners.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service is offering small grants toa few farmers in each Hawaii county who want to try converting part of theirfields to natural farming, though not livestock. DuPonte said the idealcandidate is a farmer with about two acres, who would use the money to coverthe cost of switching to "natural farming" on a quarter of an acreand keep track of costs and yields.

Cho will return for another workshop in July in Kohala, and he urgedfolks to give "natural farming" a whirl. "Don't doubt," hesaid through an interpreter. "Just jump in and try and practice and seehow it works out."

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