Interest In Worm Farming Grows
Posted August 14, 2003 11:33 a.m. EDT
TARBORO, N.C. — Worms are more than just fishing bait. They are an up-and-coming business.
Worm farming even has a name -- vermiculture.
"Vermiculture is attracting a number of people worldwide. I literally get calls and e-mails form people from all over the world daily," said Rhonda Sherman, a specialist at North Carolina State University.
A worm conference in Tarboro Wednesday attracted more than 100 people from 13 states. The diverse group looked at different ways to make money raising worms. The group included tobacco farmers looking for a new cash crop.
Some sell the worms as bait, but most market worm manure, called worm castings.
"There's a real momentum going now where [worm farming] is becoming more than just hobby," soil scientist Dr. Dr. Scott Subler, Ph.D said. "There are some real viable businesses out there based on vermiculture."
Subler runs a profitable nationwide business selling the castings to gardeners and nurseries. One other very promising business is hog farmers.
In the application of vermiculture, hog waste is neutralized by being fed to worms. The hog manure is spread in beds. At one farm, worms can eat more than 6,000 pounds of hog waste a day. The result is worm castings -- a valuable product that can be sold.
The castings have no odor and are safe for the environment.
"We take about 20 percent of the nitrogen out of the stuff, almost 80 or 90 percent of the phosphorous and zincs and the coppers," said Tom Christenberry, worm farm production manager.
With those kinds of results, other hog farmers are giving worms some thought. Worm castings are packed with minerals that are essential for plant growth and sell in garden and nursery retail stores for about $2 a pound.