The Organic Growers School is a lively event held in Asheville, North Carolina. People come from miles around for two days of intensive workshops taught by knowledgable professionals. Several classes were taught by college professors and Agriculture Extension Agents. The classes range from Organic Pest Management to Canning and Preserving to Wholesaling Crops to Retailers to Seed collection. Over the past few years homeowners have been coming to learn about growing their own foods so there is a nice mix of farmers and gardeners. This year, about 1400 people came to the two-day event. On Sunday afternoon, 4 workshops were held Jifasa farm from 1pm to 5pm. The common theme between the workshops stressed the importance of beneficial microbes: Bio-char, Effective Microorganisms™, Compost Tea, and Worm Castings. A discussion on Bio-char was conducted by Patryk Battle (top left).
Bio-char is microbially-active charcoal. The charcoal provides a home for beneficial microbes and has a host of benefits to the environment. Patryk is working with a product that includes compost and other nutrients. They have done several grow-out trials (on this farm and at a couple universities) and can demonstrate improved growth of plants grown with the char. The char is a "carbon negative" technology that encourages the activity of soil microbes that pull carbon into the soils. The production of the charcoal (made from high carbon materials) may offer multiple resources including energy production as well as production of fuels. In the greenhouse the Compost Tea Making workshop (right) was taught, showing this simple method of brewing aerobic bacateria, pseudomonads, and fungi. The tea is made from high quality compost, aerated for up to 24 hours, and applied through a drench, irrigation line, or sprayed onto plants with a mister. The instructor discussed the importance of getting the tea applied in about 6 hours after the aeration cycle is completed as the aerobic microbes begin to die off once the air is turned off. He also suggested mixing in some fish emulsion (liquid fertilizer) and some yucca extract (soap) to feed and provide some sticky-ness to keep the microbes on the leaves for a while after the application.
This is another picture of the green house that is treated on a weekly basis with compost tea mixes. We also did a class introducing EM Technology (sorry, I couldn't take a picture of myself). I discussed how EM1 Microbial Inoculant can be added to the Bio-char, the compost tea, the worm castings, and to accelerate composting. For one group I did have enough time to show them how to activate the EM1 and turn one liter of EM1 into 5 gallons of ready-to-use product. For anyone that is in the area in the Spring, I highly recommend attending this event.