“All they do is poop and pee and have sex all day long.”
By Virginia M. Wright
Organic farmers Leslie and Paul Ferguson are always looking for natural products to enrich their soil. “Horse poop, cow poop, chicken poop,” Leslie ticks off some of the good ones. “Then one day, we ordered worm poop.”
Castings, as the dark particles excreted by earthworms are known, are chock-full of beneficial minerals, enzymes, and microbes. The Fergusons were so impressed with how their vegetables grew and tasted (sweet!) when fertilized with castings that they started raising their own worms by the thousands. Eight years later, castings sales are the mainstay of their Fixit Farm in Sandy River Plantation — last year, the Fergusons sold 230,000 pounds of the stuff. Leslie shared three tidbits about harvesting worms’ number two.
► Worm Shangri-la. “We stumbled around for a few years trying to find the right food and equipment, and lo and behold, we have the magic formula. We raise worms in production pails stacked floor to ceiling in a building that’s 70 to 75 degrees year-round, and we feed them a recipe of seven grains mixed with minerals. These are optimal conditions, so all they do is poop and pee and have sex all day long.”
► Pot luck. “What really changed our business is the growth of the cannabis industry. Growers want products that don’t create weeds, are non-burning, nontoxic, and can be used inside. Blood meal, bone meal — I love the stuff, but if you use them in a closed greenhouse, they stink things up. Castings have a nice earthy scent.”
► Out to pasture. “We’ve figured out that worms will have babies from about eight weeks to 28 weeks, and they live about two years. We put labels on the production bins that tell us, ‘Okay, you’re still producing babies’ and ‘You’ve gone beyond that, but you’re still giving us castings. You’re either going to be fish bait or we’re going to keep you happy until you pass away.’”