Fabulous Fertilizer

Fabulous Fertilizer

Last weekend, Paul and I had the pleasure of going to Jembrana to check in with our cacao and see what was new in North Bali. We met with several farmers, a few of whom I will tell you about in another post. Every time we go to Jembrana, Paul and I are blown away by the amount of care and work that goes in to growing and harvesting cacao. The sheer knowledge and experience these folks have about their crops is simply unbelievable. I have yet to ask or think of a question that can’t be answered efficiently and eloquently. It’s really humbling.

On this trip, we didn’t just visit cacao farms, we also visited the home of Pak Wayan. Pak Wayan has a special role within the cacao cooperative—he’s in charge of making the organic fertilizer that all the farmers we work with use. But what’s cool about Pak Wayan and the cooperative is that he doesn’t just make it, he teaches the other farmers in the cooperative how to make it themselves; making them even more self-sufficient.

We got a pretty cool tour of the operation. Pay Wayan makes two kinds of organic fertilizer: solid and liquid. The solid fertilizer is made from cow manure and the addition of organic bacteria that can either be made or bought. Most farmers make it or received it from the cooperative as it is very expense to make on its own. The bacteria is mixed with the cow manure and left to mature in a cool, dark area for about two weeks. The mixture is tended to and turned frequently.

After two weeks, it’s ready for use and can be incorporated directly into the soil. I asked Pak Wayan if he noticed a difference in quality of growth once he began adding the fertilizer to the cacao trees. He said the quantity and health of the cacao pods that were fertilized was much better than those that were not.

As for the liquid fertilizer, it’s essentially made through a fermentation process. Based on what plants already grow naturally around a particular farmer’s home, a mixture of leaves, grasses, and aloe vera is created and combined with the same living bacteria that is used in the solid fertilizer. This mixture is allowed to mature for 1 week to a month. After that, it’s ready to be used.

One of the things I was most impressed by was how dedicated Pak Wayan was to training his fellow farmers. He developed a manual with written instructions of sorts and seemed really committed to helping people get it right.

After all that fertilizer it was time to sit and talk – which might be our favorite part. Especially because now, we can use our Bahasa Indonesia. Pak Wayan’s wife made tea and fried banana chips for us, which we gobbled up at an alarmingly fast rate. I think Paul even took some to go.

We continue to be so humbled and inspired by the work these farmers do to deliver the highest quality cacao to us. It goes without saying that we can’t wait until our next visit!