Last week, we participated in a hands on learning experience with biochar. Biochar is used as a soil amendment. It has the ability to store carbon for slow release and increase soil biodiversity as a host for micro-organisms. It is said that a handful of biochar has the surface area of a whole football field – a lot of space for living organisms! Biochar has shown in many cases to have an incredible effect on fertility in tropical environments, where nutrients are absorbed and broken down at rapid rates. Biochar has been reported to hold onto carbon for slow release for up to 100 years.
We regularly incorporate biochar into our compost piles. This past fall we had the opportunity to host Paul Taylor, one of the world’s foremost experts on biochar. He helped us to design our biochar kiln and taught a workshop on the production and benefits of biochar. Today, Jonathan led us in our own production of biochar. We scavenged the farm for dry kindling, looking specifically for wood with a diameter of less than 3 inches. Biochar is created through the pyrolysis of biomass. Pyrolysis is a the process of burning organic material with the absence of oxygen. In order to create this anoxic environment for the biomass, we manage the fire intensively, by constantly adding smaller kindling to the whole surface of the kiln, keeping a flame cap over the top of the biomass. This blocks oxygen from reaching the bottom of the pile and allows the matter lower down to undergo thermochemical decomposition. After 3-4 hours of this process, we quench the fire with water, worm compost tea, and fish emulsions. These amendments further inoculate the biochar with readily available nutrients. The biochar is now soaking in this solution. In another day, we will drain out the liquid, which can be applied around the farm – another beneficial byproduct. Our biochar will then dry out and be ready for incorporation! We are grateful to be able to source our own biochar, and utilize this holistic system for harnessing fertility from the land and putting it right back into the soil.
A delightful side project : Andrea with her pallet garden! One thing that I love about our internship program here is that we are able to hold space for interns to follow their specific interests. Andrea came to us from New York City and has an interest in urban gardening. Her keen eye for aesthetics and maximizing growing space led to her desire to create a vertical pallet garden. She was able to use resources available at the farm to design and implement her vertical garden – something that she could replicate in a small urban growing space. We are grateful for the beauty and inspiration that this project has brought to our space!
In the Community Fridge we have . . .
Orange Habanero Peppers
Purple Cayenne Peppers
Xx Jennifer and the Hale Akua Farmily