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The Business of Vermicomposting

Client Success Stories, Vermicomposting

steve_churchillSteve Churchill is a pilot with Southwest Airlines and he's a worm farmer, or "vermicomposter" in the parlance of the organics recycling industry. This is a brief overview of Steve's adventure as a vermicompost entrepreneur.

Living in Pennsylvania, Steve was fascinated by the quantity of leaves that dropped from the trees each fall and he wanted to find a way to recycle them, which led him to composting. After several failed attempts at composting leaves alone, he read artilces on composting and discovered he needed a source of nitrogen to blend with the carbin to "ignite" the composting process. For nitrogen, Steve found a source of coffee grounds and, soon ater, his compost pie began to heat up.

Much later, when he dug into the compost pile, he discovered that it was inhabited by a "clew" (large colony) of worms. After more reading, he learned this was a very good thing. However, he also learned he had an incursion of "Alabama Jumping Worms" (amynthas agrestis), an invasive and undesirable species, and not the "Red Wigglers" (eisenia fetida) preferred by vermicomposters worldwide. So he bought some Red Wrigglers and started a home worm bin, and the rest is history. 

Given that airline pilots have a lot of time off, Steve considered worm farming as a hobby-business that he could run in his spare time. In 2014, without a clear vision for where this idea would take him, he started a blog called "The Urban Worm Company". Over time, his blog developed a strong following and he soon became an expert.

One of the key lessons he learned along the way was to experiment with new ideas, stick with what works, and quickly drop what doesn't work. He also learned that to produce a high-quality product, the feedstocks need to be "pre-composted" which means they need 4-5 weeks of hot composing to stabilize the material. This includes reaching temperatures of 131 degrees (F) or hotter for at least three days to destroy pathogens, parasites, weed seeds, and insect larvae. To accomplish this step, Steve purchased an O2Compost Micro-Bin System.

Further out on Steve's learning curve, he purchased a "CFT" or Continuous Flow Through Vermicompost Reactor from Michigan Soil Works. This led to the development of the Urban Worm Bag, an inexpensive and easy to operate flow-through vermicomposting system for home owners and hobbyists. It is an excellent way to get started with vermicomposting.

Steve loves to share his knowledge about vermicomposting. He has developed a series of videos on Youtube that prove to be an excellent source for those who want to start up their own vermicompost operation, big or small. To meet Steve in person and learn a great deal about vermicomposting from the Urban Worm Company, I encourage you to visit his YouTube Channel or his Blog.


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