Nature's Little Recyclers
Welcome to our worms!
First of all, worms will eat pretty much anything that's organic
(not plastic, etc.), but they prefer feed that's ground up (which
is why coffee grounds are great for them), but they're also
perfectly happy to have shredded newspaper, cardboard, etc. as
long as it's moist. This lends the worms to be excellent "little
recyclers" of a lot of what would otherwise end up in the trash.
As the worms eat the organic material they excrete "vermicast"
which is a VERY good fertilizer, and forms the basis of most
soil ("in the wild" they have to eat through a lot of dirt to find the
bits of organic material - leafs, etc. - that are in there, leaving
behind them a richer compost ... but in the bins they've pretty
much got nothing but food to go through).
There are five basic products that come from the worm bins ...
compost, which is the broken down materials put in that the
worms have eaten/excreted (and has been further transformed
by bacteria) ... the "vermicast" which is a more granular part of
the compost, that is pretty much just the worm poop - when the
bins are broken down this gets separated and put in packets that
gardeners/farmers mix with water and an activating sugar (to
give the bacteria a boost), which produces a rich "tea" (yes, they
could have come up with a less "ewwwww"-inducing name for it)
that is sprayed on plants/soil as a combination natural fertilizer
and pesticide ... worm egg cocoons: it turns out that worms can
be very particular about the sort of environment they're in, so
sometimes adult worms don't transfer well to new locations, but
seeding the ground with the egg cocoons (which are tiny - like a
plump rice grain - each of which produces several worms) allows
them to get established in a new environment ... the worms
themselves - the market for these is both in the sport fishing
industry and in the pet industry (where they're fed to fish, lizards,
birds etc.) ... and, finally, as worm meal, which is where the
worms are dried and ground up to be a food for commercial fish
farms. One of the "missions" of Nature's Little Recyclers is to make worm meal
a popular, regionally produced, option over fish meal, the
production of which has been depleting many wild fisheries, and
requires significant transportation resources.
Nature's Little Recyclers has just moved into our own facility
down in Chicago's green-tech focused Back of the Yards neighborhood, from which
we're planning expansion into being active city-wide, both processing an ever-growing amount
of waste, and providing high-quality compost for urban farm
Most exciting of these projects is being called "The District",
where the City will be developing 800 acres across the south
side for entrepreneurial urban agriculture. This is going to
require a LOT of compost, as nearly all of these are developed
with raised beds built up over existing lots. An example of this is
Ken Dunn's City Farm which has been producing "25,000 lbs of
high-quality produce per acre" up on the north side.