Worm Composting: Why Worms?

The first part of the question can be taken as “Why did you get into the worm composting business?” . I recall seeing a news article about how the only sector of the economy that was growing was green businesses. So that’s reason #1 that I chose this niche. Reason #2 is that at the time it seemed SO easy. I figured worms grow like mad, eat free poop I could get at a barn, and sell for a pretty good price. 1.5 years in now and I’m still not making a profit, though my business is doing well overall and profits are (finally) on the horizon. Raising thousands of pounds of worms is NOT easy, requires being covered in poop for a good part of your waking life, and truly is farming. You don’t learn how to grow tons of food in the most efficient way overnight, and you don’t learn how to grow worms that fast either. Reason #3 is that I could see a clear opening in the market in the little section of the Bay Area where I live; there are no other growers right here and I try to capitalize on that. Reason #4 is that I thought it would be funny to be a woman and a worm farmer (of all things). This has proved true, and my girlfriends love watching me tell people that I’m a worm farmer. And I’m pretty entertained by those conversations, too.

So, someday it appears that I will make money. I have almost quit many, many times. Being a business owner in any sector is very hard; being a business owner who puts her kids to bed and then goes to shovel poop for 5 hours is even harder.

The second part of the “why worms?” question is really, “Why should I compost with worms? Why would I want to?” Worm composting offers a unique opportunity for urban dwelling folks to compost their waste (even in their tiny apartments) without producing a stinky-garbage smell. It does take a little while to get the hang of it, but once you do you’ll be surprised at what your worms can handle. In about 1 cubic foot of space you can cut your trash outgo by at least 30%. The resulting worm castings are much more powerful as a soil amendment than traditional compost. And let’s face it, worms are just fun. There’s something awesome about maintaining an animal usually thought of as disgusting and watching them grow and feed. I remember holding and keeping caterpillars when I was a kid, so why not worms?

I used to write about how I would squeal in horror at my worms, and it did take me a while to get over my initial fears. These days you’re more likely to hear me say things like, “Hey, little buddy, where are you going?” when I find a worm out of place. And the things that make me squeal these days are usually just unexpected critters I bring back from the barn as stowaways in the load of horse poop I’ve just picked up (grasshoppers, crickets, frogs, the occasional mouse). If it’s not pink and moving slowly, it’s going to get a surprised yelp out of me!

Worms aren’t for everyone, it’s true. But for those of us who have spent years in urban environments longing to be connected with nature like when we were kids, they are a great first step back.

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