Monday, January 24, 2011

Master Han Kyu Cho's "Natural Farming" in Hawai'i

A report on the "folksy South Korean master farmer" and his "self-sufficient system to raise crops and livestock with resources available on the farm" — A Self-Sufficient System of Farming Is Increasing Yields Across Hawaii. "Rather than applying chemical fertilizers, farmers boost the beneficial microbes that occur naturally in the soil by collecting and culturing them with everyday ingredients such as steamed rice and brown sugar," reports Susan Essoyan. "They also feed their crops with solutions containing minerals and amino acids made from castoff items such as eggshells and fish bones."

This brings to mind a week-old post of mine on the "mixing [of] effective microorganisms (EM) into feed" and calls to "transform existing livestock facilities into eco-friendly ones" — Are Natural Farming Practices Preventative of Foot-and-Mouth Diesease? From the article comes this fascinating example, also involving the raising of livestock:
    Across the state, an unusual piggery in Kurtistown on the Big Island is another showcase for Cho's system of "natural farming." The pig farm's claim to fame: It does not smell or attract flies or even require cleaning. And its pigs are thriving.

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

    DuPonte said the idea of not cleaning a pigsty did not sit well with him at first blush. "When Master Cho came to see me, I was a skeptic," DuPonte said. "I asked him, 'What about disease?' You don't clean 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 Korea to see a piggery in action, DuPonte became a convert. The Kang Farms "Inoculated Dry Litter System" piggery building, opened in August 2009 in Kurtistown, measures 30 by 60 feet and handles up to 125 pigs. It uses natural ventilation and is oriented for sunlight. The pens are filled with a deep bed of dry sawdust and wood chips, spiked with microorganisms cultivated from local soil that help break down the manure. The pigs are fed rations made from agricultural waste, including sweet potatoes, macadamia nuts and bananas.

    DuPonte says the pigs seem "stress-free and contented," and they are good neighbors because the piggery produces no waste, runoff or telltale smell. That is important for Hawaii's swine farmers, who have been pushed from one location after another by urbanization and complaints from neighbors. The piggery project was supported by the University of Hawaii, Farm Pilot Project Coordination, Hawaii County and Agribusiness 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 build these piggeries in their place. It's going to take off, mainly because of lack of odor. Pig farmers have been kicked out of Kam IV Road and then Hawaii Kai, and now they're getting challenges in Waianae and they don't know where they are going to go next."
"Versions of natural farming have been practiced for generations in Asia," we learn. (You can say that again, as Franklin Hiram King's century-old tome attests — Farmers of Forty Centuries; Or, Permanent Agriculture in China, Korea, and Japan.) The author notes, however, that "scientific proof of its efficacy is hard to come by because it is a complex system that adapts to local conditions," which calls into question the need for "scientific proof " not the system's efficacy, for which the populations of these East Asian countries alone speak.

"Just jump in and try and practice and see how it works out," advised Master Cho.

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