Effective Microorganisms - how a perfectly balanced brew of tiny ancient creatures are helping save the planet

I first learned about Effective Microorganisms during the nineties when teaching at Woodbridge District High School in Southern Tasmania.

As well as taking the kindergarten and music classes, I was given the responsibility of the school farm and Landcare program. Apparently, being interested, enthusiastic and the son of a farmer was enough to qualify me for the job at that time!

So each year I got to go to an agricultural science teachers’ conference. I was the only kinder teacher there, but this became an advantage when my friends, Brian and Jenny Horsley, became involved in Effective Microorganism technology (EM) and I read Professor Teruo Higa’s book, “An Earth Saving Revolution.”

Sometimes, when learning about an entirely new or revolutionary concept, it helps to have no preconceived ideas, no prior learning in that field. It’s an advantage because there will be less “cognitive dissonance” – that inner voice which says, “Hold on I already know about that - and this is impossible!”

When Brain Horsley introduced me to Effective Microorganisms technology I could hardy wait to implement it on the school farm.

EM Bokashi makes short work of kitchen/lunch waste

I invited Brian onto the School Farm Board which met weekly to oversee the establishment of the new Whole Farm Plan in 1995. Before long we were recycling all the school’s lunch and kitchen waste using EM Bokashi which then made excellent fertilizer for our kitchen garden.

Eight-year-old Dylan called the fermentation buckets we used for the kitchen/lunch waste and Bokashi “Scrap Tanks” so I reckon he deserves the copyright on that one.

It was amazing to see how the EM turned that waste, which was mostly bread crusts and apple cores, into rich, non-smelly fermented stuff which, when later buried in garden trenches quickly integrated into the soil to create a rich humus.

Anyone who's tried to make compost with kitchen waste knows how difficult it is, even in a worm farm, to avoid putrefaction.

We grew a great crop of organic pink-eye potatoes and garlic using no other fertilizer than Bokashi with blood and bone meal.

A parent who was head chef at a fine restaurant in the city wanted to buy both the potatoes and garlic for their excellent taste.

This experience also showed my why EM technology has not taken off here as it should. An agricultural adviser, himself very sympathetic to organic farming, worried that we might be introducing foreign microbes – like the early Europeans introduced rabbits into Australia two hundred years ago with devastating consequences.

Fear! I often wonder if this influential and otherwise sensible person had chosen NOT to listen to doubt and fear but had gone on to embrace EM technology and farming methods like so many have.

Another influence on my thinking at this time which I’m reconnecting with now is Bill Mollison’s “Permaculture.” I'll be writing about my experience with that soon.

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