2018 - Volume #42, Issue #2, Page #07[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Worm Casting Business Ideal For “Retired” Couple
“The castings are so easy to use, and my plants were amazing. That’s why I became a fan,” explains the Goshen, Ind., gardener.
When her supplier had to quit because of back problems, Webb, a retired dental hygienist, and her husband, Bob, agreed to buy the business in 2015. They moved the African nightcrawlers into an insulated 16 by 20-ft. “worm room” in a pole barn on their property.
To consistently produce quality castings requires the Webbs to pay attention to details. They maintain a year-round temperature around 75F degrees, use fans to circulate the air, and keep the room well-lit.
“They are nightcrawlers, so the light keeps them in the buckets or they would crawl out and explore more,” Webb explains.
The couple have more than 100 3-gal. buckets with holes drilled along the top to let light in. Each bucket holds about 250 nightcrawlers. Bob mixes 10 lbs. of peat moss with a blend of ground grains and water in each bucket for the worms to eat.
“Two weeks later it turns into 7 lbs. of castings,” Webb says.
The buckets are dumped over vibrating screens of different sizes. Castings fall through the tiny 1/8-in. screen, cocoons and leftover peat moss fall through 1/4-in. screen, and the adult worms fall through a slot into a bucket.
“That’s the key to our business. We sell pure castings that are not diluted in any way,” Webb says.
Nightcrawlers can live and produce castings for about 8 years, and the Webbs add to their “livestock” numbers by raising the cocoons in a nursery area. Though the Webbs have to pay attention to maintaining the perfect environment, nightcrawlers don’t require daily chores. The buckets just need to be emptied every two weeks, and the worms can begin the process all over again with new peat moss, feed, and water.
“Castings can’t burn plants, and you don’t have to measure. They are full of microbes and organic matter to help produce nutrients for plants. Plus, they aerate and hold water,” she says. “Just 2 tablespoons feed plants in an 8-in. pot for two months.” She suggests mixing 1/3 castings with 2/3 potting mix to start plants.
For people interested in raising nightcrawlers, she offers a couple pieces of advice.
“The biggest thing is to make sure you have readily available peat moss,” she says, noting it needs to be good quality without sand and chemicals. She makes a 3-hr. round trip every couple of months to buy 3 yards of peat moss from a family-owned bog.
To get started in raising nightcrawlers, Webb also recommends contacting UNCO Industries Inc. (www.vermiculture.com) for information and equipment.
Prices paid for castings vary by location. Webb says her prices start at about $4.50/5 lbs. wholesale, with price breaks for larger quantities.
Besides selling wholesale to local stores, Webb uses social media such as Facebook (RAW Sustainable Living) to teach, show videos, promote and sell castings.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Raw Sustainable Living, Bob and Annette Webb, 60709 Co. Rd. 19, Goshen, Ind. 46528 (ph 574 202-2527; firstname.lastname@example.org).
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