Partnerships in Food Waste Reduction through Vermiculture
What we’ve been doing: At this time in the Vermicomposting project, One 20 Farm has obtained the necessary equipment to facilitate the collection and hauling of food waste to predetermined vermicomposting sites. One 20 Farm has been working with Two Caterer’s Company and Crimson Cup Coffee Company to recycle their waste products into natural fertilizer through the use of red wiggler worms. One 20 Farm has been regularly picking up coffee chaff –a byproduct of the coffee roasting process– from Crimson Cup Coffee Company to use as a carbon based bedding for the worms; into this is buried pre-consumer fruit and vegetable waste received from Two Caterer’s Company.
Our current vermicomposting sites include wooden bins housed indoors at our home location, a wooden bin as well as a windrow at the Two Caterer’s Company location and finally a windrow located at the Flying J Farm.
The project had some short term set-backs while we worked with the local solid waste authority to ensure that the project was not going to conflict with any local regulations. We have been updating our Facebook page with information regarding the collection of waste, the status of the worms and bins, as well as notifications about upcoming presentations, workshops, etc. As the weather warms and things begin to really move again we will continue to share data we collect about food waste and the rate of transformation into vermicast (fertilizer).
Changes we’ve made: Some minor changes to the initial proposal have been made in an effort to create a more sustainable program. In place of building bins from purchased lumber for all sites where worms are housed, we have switched partially to windrows instead. This winter temperatures dropped faster than expected and caused a loss of worms due to freezing in some of the wooden bins used outdoors before we were able to get them insulated or heated. To try and better manage this problem, worms at both the Flying J Farm location and a second application of worms at the Two Caterer’s location are housed in windrows so they can follow their natural migration cycle to deeper ground if/when the temperature in the feeding area becomes too cold.
We believe this will be a more sustainable method since it does not rely on extra expenses for heating and insulation. Furthermore, fresh horse manure will be used on the outsides of the windrows in an effort to heat them since fresh manure tends to have high microbial activity and produces considerable heat. This manure will also serve as a feedstock for the worms as the microbial activity tapers off and the worms work their way back toward the surface in warmer weather.
Our Education Programs: We have continued to teach small workshops for both adults and children, focusing on the basics –how-to– of vermicomposting and why food waste recycling is important. We have also worked with the Metropolitan Parks and Recreation Department doing both workshops and presentations to educate the public about the importance of worms, soil health and composting. Future projects are to include working with local elementary school(s) on service learning project about composting and waste recycling as well as working with the Mid Ohio Food Bank to help them begin a vermicomposting program that will also serve to educate the public.
In late spring or early summer we plan to conduct a formal hands-on workshop where we will supply worm bins at a discounted rate as per our initial grant proposal, we will cover the basics of how to get started with vermicomposting as well as demonstrate what a successful working worm bin looks and smells like.
Other Plans for the Future:
1. Our goal is to expand the amount of space used to house the worms thus allowing them to multiply freely since their reproduction is directly linked to available space. This will reduce our need to purchase worms from outside sources in the future as well as increase our ability to meet local demand for worms used in home composting units.
2. With the approaching growing season we plan to utilize vermicast to fertilize a small garden bed and compare the growth of a small variety of vegetables grown 1. with vermicast, 2. with no inputs at all (control) and 3. with more conventional certified organic practices. Our anticipated outcome will be that the vermicast crops will be healthier and more disease resistant and that the soil with the vermicast will host 1. More wild earthworms as well as other soil life, and 2. Better nutrient balance for plant growth. This will be done using soil samples analyzed by a laboratory as well as soil tests analyzing the life forms from each of the three test rows.