2002 - Volume #26, Issue #5, Page #08[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Worm Farming Not A "Get Rich Quick" Business
We decided to look into the business and discovered that you can make money, but you have to do it the old fashioned way; you have to work for it. Of course, many ads suggest otherwise, promising to buy all your worms once you buy their breeding stock, equipment and supplies. But experts we talked to in the worm farming business say the companies that place those ads aren't always what they claim to be.
"There are companies out there that prey on the farming community," says Paul Coleman, Earlybird Worm Farm, Hodges, S.C., "I have met people who paid $10,000 for 100 lbs. of worms and a harvesting machine. They could have bought the worms for $700 and the best machine available for $2,400."
Coleman views such outfits as little better than pyramid sales scams and advises staying away from contract production. Zorba Frankel, managing editor of Worm Digest, Eugene, Oregon, warns people to be realistic and careful when considering contracts but says they can be a good place to start.
"You need to view buy back companies as business partners," he counsels. "If you are thinking about hiring them as your marketing department, check them out really well and visit a number of farms doing business with them. Frequently, we have seen buy-back companies grossly exaggerating reproduction rates."
While many companies claim you can double production every three months, Frankel notes that there are many uncertainties in worm production. A sudden change in barometric pressure can cause worms to go nuts. If the heat reaches 95? in the beds, they will die. Change the bedstock, and production may stop for a month while the worms acclimate themselves to the new bedding.
Depending on your skills, there may be no reason to be affiliated with a buy-back worm company, notes Frankel.
Coleman is one grower who went the independent route. He has raised worms for about five years, starting out with a plywood box and Belgium red worms he bought from a man on the Internet. Initially, he sold worms to local bait shops. Today, he ships 8 to 12 million worms per season (both bulk worms and cut bait) and packages and sells their castings as well. He advises people interested in worm farming to start out small and work their way up.
"A wheelbarrow and a pitchfork are your best friends," he says. "It's a 365 day a year job. If you're looking for instant gratification, it's not going to happen."
Coleman has 2,000 square feet of beds and is adding more, but he has yet to quit his day job. He emphasizes learning from personal experience and talking to lots of people in the business. Build production slowly as you build markets, first in your local area and then expanding with distributors and the Internet as you grow. Integrity, he says, is key, while the real secret to success comes with hard work and marketing the worms in every possible way. He notes that the worm castings, their so-called waste product, is often worth more than the worm itself. It just needs to be marketed.
"Get out there and work at it," he says. "You'll be able to sell more than you can grow."
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Paul Coleman, EARLY BIRD WORM FARM, 6902 Highway 25 North, Hodges, S.C. 29653 (ph 864 374-7350;áfax 864 374-7880; E-mail: email@example.com; Website: www.earlybirdwormfarm.com); or Worm Digest, Box 544, Eugene, Oregon 97440 (ph/fax 541 485-0456; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Website: www.wormdigest.org).
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