Vermiculturists Want to Worm Their Way into Your Compost


Montezuma County residents Frank Dean and Wendy Walker run a worm farm. Yes, WORM farm. Four Corners Worm Farm. And they're on a mission to introduce worm composting and worm fertilizer as a practice in regenerative agriculture that reduces the amount of waste thrown in landfills and rids the need for chemical pesticides and fertilizers – and provides bait for the occasional fisherman. This story is sponsored by the LOR Foundation of Montezuma and Keesee Motors

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Montezuma county residents, Frank Dean and Wendy Walker, raise worms, and they hope they'll wiggle their way into your compost pile. You're watching the Local News Network, brought to you by the LOR Foundation and Keesee Motors of Cortez. I'm Hannah Robertson. Frank Dean and Wendy Walker are relatively new to the world of worms, and Dean admits they had to dig their way into his heart.

I had a nephew who's raised worms for years, and he was constantly on me, and I told him it was a dumb idea. Then the more I did research on it, the more I sort of, the light bulb came on in my head. We spend huge amounts of money throwing stuff in the landfills that we can turn into living matter that helps our soil.

While their business may seem a little strange at first, Walker and Dean say that worm farming is an exercise in regenerative agriculture, that reduces landfill waste and eliminates the need for chemical pesticides and herbicides. It all starts with the kind of garbage that you'd put in a compost pile, like vegetables, fruits, leaves, grass, or wood chips. Dean places the garbage in a plastic tub that has air holes drilled into the side. Then he adds the wrigglers, and not just any kind of worm, at that.

Most of the things you throw away, paper towel holders, I shred up cardboard, grass clippings, apples, banana peels, paper towels, that can all go into your compost pile, but it can also be fed to the worms. Then they take and turn that. By eating it, they turn it into castings, which is worm poop. When people think of worms, they think of earthworms, which is the large ones you see coming out of the ground when it rains. These are red wigglers, which are a composting worm. They're a lot smaller, but they eat more and they poop more, which is what you're after. So you're using stuff that you usually would've thrown away or goes into the landfill. You can reduce your household garbage by up to 50% just by having a worm band.

Dean stores the composting worms in an old cistern, where they are kept at a consistent temperature of about 54 degrees. It takes the worms about three to five months to decompose the garbage and release their castings. During that time, they'll also deposit cocoons that hatch into more worms. When the mixture has turned mostly into castings, it's sifted to remove remaining debris and to separate the tiny cocoons from the mixture. Then, Walker and Dean start another batch, with fresh garbage, the leftover worms, and new cocoons. Walker and Dean sell worm composting kits, blocks of pure worm castings for use as an organic soil amendment, and seed sprouting mixtures they make from worm castings and ground coconut shells. They recently added European night crawlers to the herd, because customers wanted them for fish bait, in addition to their talents at turning compost into fertilizer. Although the Code of the West says you should never ask a cowboy about the size of his herd, we took a chance and asked how many worms were wriggling on the Four Corners Worm Farm.

I usually start the tubs with 1,000 worms in 'em, and then I let them stay for three to four months. And then I take out the adult worms and I sift it out so I have the castings, and start all over again. So at any one time, I have between 1,000 and 2,000 active worms in a tub, but I have a lot of castings. So it's hard to say. Right now, I have about 55 or 60 tubs down there, so I'd say I've got 100,000 worms. Obviously addictive. I literally went down the wormhole.

You can find the Four Corners Worm Farm online or at local farmer's markets throughout the Four Corners. To learn more, visit Thanks for watching this edition of the Local News Network. I'm Hannah Robertson.


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