SG556: Joel Karsten Helps Farmers in Cambodia and How Straw Bale Gardens Solves the Toughest Growing Challenges

Joel pioneered his now popular method of Straw Bale Gardening almost 25 years ago. The author of Straw Bale Gardens, Joel receives letters from grateful gardeners from around the globe. Cambodia’s agricultural challenges are many including yearly flooding and drought with temperatures in the summer well over 100 degrees.   In April of last year, Joel was invited by the Korean Trade Partners (KOTRA) to Cambodia to teach Straw Bale Gardening using plentiful Rice Straw. By mitigating challenges and leveraging the ingenuity of the agricultural community, Joel’s method is increasing self reliance and improving food security for Cambodians.   

BONUS: Check out the Still Growing podcast archive for my three part series featuring Joel in episodes SG515 Joel’s Story, SG516 How to Straw Bale Garden, and SG517 Advanced Straw Bale Garden Techniques and Q&A.

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“Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”
― Robert Louis Stevenson.

Joel Karsten Helps Farmers in Cambodia and How Straw Bale Gardens Solves the Toughest Growing Challenges
Joel Karsten reviews Straw bales in baskets for transportability
Joel Karsten Helps Farmers in Cambodia and How Straw Bale Gardens Solves the Toughest Growing Challenges
Joel Karsten teaching straw bale gardening to Cambodian farmers in 2016
Joel Karsten Helps Farmers in Cambodia and How Straw Bale Gardens Solves the Toughest Growing Challenges
Building a bamboo platform for the floating Rice Straw Bale Garden to stay above flood waters with Joel Karsten
Joel Karsten Helps Farmers in Cambodia and How Straw Bale Gardens Solves the Toughest Growing Challenges
Joel Karsten waters a straw bale to condition it in Cambodia
Joel Karsten Helps Farmers in Cambodia and How Straw Bale Gardens Solves the Toughest Growing Challenges
Farmers and Educators in Cambodia eager to learn how to straw bale garden with Joel Karsten
Joel Karsten Helps Farmers in Cambodia and How Straw Bale Gardens Solves the Toughest Growing Challenges
Setting up the Trellis over the rice straw bales in Cambodia using only bamboo and spun shrink wrap Cambodian ingenuity with Joel Karsten
Joel Karsten Helps Farmers in Cambodia and How Straw Bale Gardens Solves the Toughest Growing Challenges
Showing farmers in Cambodia how to make homemade bales of rice straw with Joel Karsten
Joel Karsten Helps Farmers in Cambodia and How Straw Bale Gardens Solves the Toughest Growing Challenges
Cambodian farmer conditions a rice Straw Bale using a water bottle as a measuring cup with Joel Karsten
Joel Karsten Helps Farmers in Cambodia and How Straw Bale Gardens Solves the Toughest Growing Challenges
Cambodian Bamboo Floating Garden with Joel Karsten

Interview Questions

I want to get your thoughts on self-resilience and food security. Those two things are big challenges for Cambodia, aren’t they?

Time Stamp: 23:50

Please share to the listeners a little bit of an overview on how you pioneered this method of growing (straw bale gardening) and what’s involved?

Time Stamp 26:30

What is the difference between a straw bale and hay bale?

Time Stamp 31:25

You told me that straw bale gardening is more popular in other parts of the world than it is in the United States. Why is that?

Time Stamp 34:15

It seems that there were two groups that played a role in getting you over to Cambodia. How did they find you and reach out to you?

Time Stamp 49:05

It’s fascinating to me that South Korea has taken Cambodia under their wing. Do they do that for the entire region or is it just something special with Cambodia?

Time Stamp 1:03:05

Did the U.S department of Agriculture play a role in all of this?

Time Stamp 1:07:35

What kind of reaction did you receive when you were teaching this method to farmers and teachers? 

Time Stamp 1:10:15

Let’s do a crash course in Cambodia and pick you brain on the country in general before we dive into some of the things you did that.

Time Stamp 1:12:35

How many days were you there for?

Time Stamp 1:16:45

So, when you first show up, what was the reaction like?

Time Stamp 1:17:55

Once you were in Cambodia, you were conducting training courses. What was that like?

Time Stamp 1:21:20

How did their questions differ from a typical presentation or conference you’ve done in the U.S.?

Time Stamp 1:26:15

I’m starting to get a picture of what it looked like to be there. Are their homes on highland if they have to deal with regular flooding? How is it all structured/placed?

Time Stamp 1:33:50

You spoke about the dry and raining seasons. What other conditions did you have to take into consideration before teaching the farmers straw bale gardening?

Time Stamp 1:36:20

Let’s talk a little bit about the organic medium you’ve been working with. You mentioned that prior to straw bale gardening, the leftover rice straw was burned instead of reused.

Time Stamp 1:38:30

Do they have pest issues that they have to face?

Time Stamp 1:44:40

Was this an all-male class or did you have some women as well?

Time Stamp 1:46:45

How do you make floating gardens with straw bale?

Time Stamp 1:48:50

Let’s take a look at some of your pictures! Go to Joel’s facebook page and check out the photos from May to follow along.

Time Stamp 1:54:15

What did going to Cambodia mean to you?

Time Stamp 2:09:25

You’ve created an organic conditioning product for straw bales that helps prepare the bale for growing. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

Time Stamp 2:13:25

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Jennifer Ebeling
Jennifer Ebeling is a proud Minnesotan and U of MN alumni. Gooooooo Gophers! Each week, Jennifer produces and hosts Still Growing - a gardening podcast dedicated to helping you and your garden grow. The show is an in-depth interview format. Guests featured on the show share a passion for gardening and include authors, bloggers, professional gardeners, etc. Listeners and guests of the show can join the Still Growing community on Facebook. It's a place to ask questions, share garden stories, interact with great guests featured on the show, and continue to grow and learn. Jennifer and her husband Philip have four children, a big golden lab named Sonny, and live in lovely Maple Grove, Minnesota. P.S. When she's not teaching her four kids a new card game - or teaching them how to drive a car - Jennifer loves inspiring individuals and groups to maximize and personalize their home & garden.
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2 Comments

  1. […] week, Joel Karsten returned to the Still Growing Gardening Podcast in episode SG556 to tell us all about his amazing trip to help farmers in Cambodia.  At the end of the episode, […]

  2. […] SG556: Joel Karsten Helps Farmers in Cambodia and How Straw Bale Gardens Solves the Toughest Growing… […]

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