Flowerfield Enterprises (The Worm Woman Story)1
It’s August. That means a lot of things. It means school is coming (and all of the mothers said “Amen!”). It means summer gardens are winding down and transitioning into fall gardens. And it means that Locavore90 is coming to a close.
So far this summer we’ve brought you information about sources for local, in-season produce; talked about how to preserve some of those items and shared a monthly meal plan to help you come up with unique ways to prepare in-season food. All of that was made possible in part by the support of Flowerfield Enterprises, our Locavore90 sponsor. Ryan and I were first introduced to Flowerfield Enterprises at a green living expo in 2011. Besides being very pleased that they’ve partnered with us to bring you Locavore90, we support the work that they do and want to share a little bit about them.
Flowerfield Enterprises (located in Portage, Michigan) specializes in vermicomposting. Vermicomposting is a system for turning food waste or other organic matter into potting soil with the help of worms, especially Redworms (Eisenia fetida). It is and environmentally friendly process and, although it has its own set of requirements for effectiveness, does not rely on thermal energy like the typical compost pile. That means vermicomposting can be done even in the cold winter months.
The company was started 40 years ago by Mary Appelhof. Mary (affectionately known as Worm Woman) raised worms and understood their abilities to turn garbage into a nutrient-rich soil amendment. To share her knowledge with the rest of the world, Mary wrote the book Worms Eat My Garbage. She grew the business to enable both the publishing of her own book and as well as books by others on the benefits of vermicomposting. Mary also patented her Worm-a-Way Vermicomposting bin which simplifies the process of setting up an effective system. In 2005 Flowerfield’s Worm Woman passed away only weeks after being diagnosed with cancer. However, the knowledge and products she helped to popularize are still available through the company’s website, www.wormwoman.com.
What exactly are those products? So glad you asked! Flowerfield sells worms, worm bins, worm books and compost tea. Compost tea is another environmentally friendly product that can be used on lawns, fields and vineyards to reduce and/or eliminate the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides.
Another question you might be asking is why in the world would I want worms in my home? (Or, otherwise stated, who really does this stuff and why?!) Well for starters, vermicomposting keeps organic matter out of the landfill where it smells bad. It also keeps it out of the water stream. According to Nancy Essex, current owner of Flowerfield Enterprises, it takes eight gallons of water to wash one pound of garbage down a sink garbage disposal. From there your garbage goes to the water treatment plant where it is treated with chemicals and released. Vermicomposting enables you to keep that organic matter (food waste) out of the landfill system AND it provides you with a useful bi-product: A nutrient and microbial rich soil amendment for lawns and gardens. And as I mentioned earlier, vermicomposting can be done in the winter time. That’s welcome news to those of us who typically stop composting after the weather gets too cold and snowy for ‘the pile’ to be effective.
So what do you need to do if you want to get started with vermicomposting? Wow… you’re asking all the right questions today!
To start you need the following:
- A suitable container (such as the Worm-a-Way Composting Bin).
The container must provide air flow (to allow your wormies to breathe) and a dark environment (worms dislike light). You’ll also want a lid to preserve moisture. In one of her books (Worms Eat My Garbage) Mary suggests weighing your household food waste for one week and then providing one square foot of surface area per pound.
- Bedding to support the worms.
This bedding will be both home and food to the worms. Bedding can be coir (coconut fiber bedding), shredded cardboard, newspaper or peat moss with each option having advantages and challenges. Whichever option you choose, the bedding should be damp but not soggy to provide an optimal environment for worms to turn your kitchen scraps into black gold.
- Redworms (Red Wigglers)
Not all worms are suited for life as worm-bin garbage recyclers. You’ll want Red Wigglers for this job – and you can get them from Flowerfield.
- Garbage (organic matter such as kitchen scraps)
You can feed your worms almost anything, but here are some tips. Veggies and fruit work well, but avoid anything too acidic (think oranges). Worms may also have a hard time with onions and garlic. Your hardworking garbage worms also have a digestive system that will benefit from fine grit such as coffee grounds, cornmeal or crushed eggshells. Avoid lots of protein and fat materials as these can cause the bin (which is otherwise virtually odorless) to stink. And remember to begin sloooowly. If you give your worms a giant feast on day one and then keep adding, your food will start to rot before they have a chance to address it. (In other words, it will start to smell because they can’t eat it as fast as you provide it.
Done right, vermicomposting is an odor-free, environmentally healthy way for you to reduce your inputs to the landfill system while simultaneously producing a nutrient-rich amendment for your lawn, garden or potted plants. A vermicomposting system can tuck neatly out of site into a kitchen cabinet or onto a garage shelf. And it is a great way to introduce children to the idea of natural life cycles and the importance of environmental stewardship! (Seriously – what little kid wouldn’t like to have ‘pet worms’?) For the minimal time it takes to get the system setup, there’s a lot to like about vermicomposting.
Nancy Essex knows full well about all those likable aspects of vermicomposting. “At the end of the day” she says “we know we have done everything we can to help our environment heal. Our daily mantra is ‘Do no harm!’” Flowerfield provides products that enable people like you and me to take responsibility for our own kitchen waste.
Want more info? You can find tons of useful, down-to-earth information about vermicomposting and compost tea at www.wormwoman.com.