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Down the back stairs of the clubhouse kitchen, on a plot lost among the expanse of tightly trimmed fairways and greens, weeks-old food is buried under a tarp and mulch and left to decompose. But this private country club in Massachusetts isn't taking an unsanitary shortcut with its trash. It's trying bokashi, an obscure composting method it says will help it recycle 4 tons of food waste each year.
Bokashi is based on an ancient Japanese practice that ferments food waste by covering it with a mix of microorganisms that suppress its smell and eventually produce soil. Bokashi is not widely used in the United States, but its practitioners think it should be. At Ferncroft Country Club, owner Affinity Management decided to start bokashi last month after trying it successfully at a public golf course it operates in Maryland.
Advocates say the key advantage of bokashi, if done correctly, is that the microorganisms involved don't produce foul odors as they break down the food. So people can toss in meat, and even small amounts of dairy and oils, unlike in other composting methods. That eliminates much of the waste sorting that can make composting impractical for a larger food establishment. And the treated food won't turn stomachs or attract pests.
Bokashi traces back centuries to Japanese farmers who covered food scraps in their rich, regional soil, which contained microorganisms that would ferment the food. After a few weeks, they'd bury the waste. Two or three weeks later, it was soil.