Bokashi Workshop

Bokashi….is it a Japanese Tree, a granola bar, or a variety of lettuce? Actually, Bokashi is Japanese, can make a tree or lettuce grow (however isn’t either), and Bokashi does incorporate dry organic matter, such as rice or wheat bran (which can be found in your granola bar).

Bokashi is a Japanese term meaning fermented organic matter. The Bokashi method is a process that creates this fermented organic matter (not compost, but a different product that is beneficial to a garden’s soil) very quickly and efficiently.  Like composting, the Bokashi method is an excellent alternative to throwing out organic waste. Did you know that organic waste makes up between 20-40% of the total “garbage” that ends up in landfills? It seems like an awful waste of organic waste, if you ask me. Especially when such materials can easily be turned into a nutrient-rich, organic fertilizer (or whatever else strikes your organic waste fancy).

The Bokashi method has been used in Japan for ages as a means for disposing of kitchen waste, using the product to grow lush gardens.  Earlier this summer, the UAA Student Garden volunteers had the opportunity to use the Bokashi method to make our own fermented organic matter! Exciting, right?

We all met at Green Earth Land Works, a wonderful Alaskan landscaping business (and an avid supporter of the UAA Student Garden). There Melody, our Garden Caretaker, conducted a workshop during which the volunteers used the Bokashi process to make some fermented organic matter of our very own! The process was simple, fast, and really fun! Ideally, this post would be smattered with some excellent photos as proof of the fun we allegedly had, but unfortunately, no photos have surfaced from our Bokashi experience! So if you are a volunteer with some photos stashed away, please email sustainuaa@gmail.com so we can add them to this post as soon as possible :)

The ingredients for Bokashi include molasses, water, bran (carbon material) and EM1. EM1 is “a product made of dry organic matter such as rice or wheat bran, hay, sawdust, dried leaves, etc. that has been fermented with EM1 Microbial Inoculants, molasses, and water.” (EMI definition borrowed from this Bokashi Recipe given to the Student Garden Project by Christina at Green Earth). When all the ingredients are combined, microbes begin to grow, and Bokashi begins fermenting.

Outside the Green Earth nursery, we took turns adding the liquid materials to a large pile of wheat bran atop a plastic liner. Shovels in hand, laughing with excitement, we mixed the ingredients together. The smell was amazing, like baking in one’s kitchen! Have you smelled molasses lately? We then shoveled the mixture (not too dry, not too moist) into black garbage bags, and bid everyone adieu. Three weeks later, after the microbes had a ball inside these plastic bags, the Bokashi was delightfully fermented and ready to be added to our humble garden.

Post written by Suzanne Schafer and Jasmine Woodland

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