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Tiny Wigglers Produce 3 Tons Of "Black Gold" Per Week
Lynda Schmidt knows worms and how to make money from them. Each week her "worm farm" pumps out three tons of castings that she calls "black gold". The increasingly popular fertilizer retails for $12.95 or more for a 20-liter bag. It's a business she practically fell into, but one she has fallen in love with.
"I knew nothing about the worm casting production until I ran across this business four years ago," she says. "I was amazed by it."
Because the previous owners had been concentrating on another business, production was down to 1 1/2 yards per week. As she learned the business, she built production back up to the current high. Although she sells much of her production in bulk quantities, she is slowly shifting to retail distribution as demand grows.
Currently she keeps 85 4 by 4-ft. bins active with approximately 25 lbs. of large African night crawlers in each. Each bin is refilled with worm food about every two weeks. At the end of the two weeks, the castings pass through a screening process, the bins are refilled and the worms are returned to work.
Schmidt prefers African night crawlers to red wrigglers, which are more common in vermicomposting, even though they are more finicky.
"They need to be kept at 78 to 82 degrees, but the barn was built for that with in-floor heat. With the barn's good insulation, it doesn't take much energy," she says. "They are very productive and produce 20 babies per cocoon compared to three to five in a standard earthworm cocoon."
Schmidt collects the cocoons and raises her own replacement stock, something that took her a couple of years to perfect, she says. Once in production, she babies her worms with a secret recipe of humic peat and four grains. The special peat, which is the layer found just above the seam of coal in bogs, is very clean and consistent. It is shredded, screened and mixed with the milled grains.
"Some of my customers use our worm castings to make plant tea brewed with special sugars and enzymes," says Schmidt. "They can't have any wild bacteria in it, so we need to have a clean process throughout."
An active promoter of worm castings, Schmidt hosts tours of her facilities, a gardeners' festival with composting workshops, and even a Halloween party for area kids.
"It is amazing how well it works with turf, and golf courses are picking up on that," she says. "It has a slow release that promotes natural enzymes and microbes and deep root growth. It also seems to help fight molds."
Schmidt recommends spreading 10 liters per 100 sq. ft. for turf, 10 percent worm castings in potting soil mixes and a handful of castings into the hole when transplanting seedlings.
"It has an amazing effect on germination," she says.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, World of Worm Castings, 2610 Glenmore Road N., Kelowna, B.C., Canada V1V 2B6 (ph 250 762-5907; Lynda@wowcastings. com; www. wowcastings.com).

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2007 - Volume #31, Issue #1