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Free Worms Promote Vermicomposting

Worm exchange programs offer an inexpensive way for people to live more sustainably—and the idea is catching on.

By Jodi Helmer

September 14, 2010

Red wiggler worms

Photo by Stephanie Staton

Worm exchange programs help people who vermicompost obtain red wiggler worms for free.

Worms are taking center stage in the fight against food waste.

Worm composting, also known as vermicomposting, is becoming more popular in urban settings where gardeners lack the space for traditional compost heaps. Housed in small bins, red wigglers digest food waste and turn it into rich organic compost. In an effort to promote vermicomposting, a small number of grassroots organizations have launched worm exchange programs.

Worm exchange programs work like old-fashioned swap meets: Enthusiasts gather to trade stories, exchange knowledge and share resources—all with a focus on helping others establish and maintain thriving worm bins.

Colin Anderson started the Toronto Worm Exchange in 2008. The group doesn’t have meetings or membership requirements, and there are no fees; it’s just an informal group of compost enthusiasts who share information—and worms.

“One of the biggest complaints about some environmental initiatives is the expense associated with getting started,” Anderson explains. “We thought a worm exchange was a good option to make worm composting more accessible without huge startup costs.”

According to Anderson, worm composting can be done without spending a red cent on red wigglers. In fact, in an established worm bin, red wigglers can double their numbers after a few months, giving composters an excess of worms to share. In Baltimore, those excess worms can even be traded for fresh veggies.

Students at the Maryland Institute College of Art founded a worm-exchange program in 2009 to help encourage Baltimore residents to compost. In order to meet the demand for free worms, students started offering produce grown through the campus Sustainable Food Project called Buddha Garden in exchange for worms. The program has become so popular that there is a long waiting list for free worms.

The worm exchange program in Fort Collins, Colo., has had similar success. As part of an ongoing effort to help divert food waste from the landfill, Susie Gordon, a senior environmental planner with the Fort Collins Natural Resources Department, was charged with promoting worm composting.

Inspired by the community exchanges happening through websites like Craigslist and Freecycle, Gordon launched an online group through Yahoo to connect residents who were willing to share information about vermicomposting and offer worms to others who wanted to start worm bins.

“We’ve loved seeing the positive reaction to the program,” notes Gordon.

Since its inception in 2005, the Yahoo group has grown to 315 members, but Gordon believes the program has a much broader reach. Anderson echoes the sentiment, noting that the Facebook fan page for Toronto Worm Exchange has just 27 members; he is aware of a much larger number of participants who are taking part in worm exchanges.

“It’s an informal group, and we’re not tracking numbers, but there has been a lot of growth since we got started,” he explains. “It’s one really simple way to connect to the community and change the world without spending a lot of money.”

Give us your opinion on Free Worms Promote Vermicomposting.
Submit Comment »
This is great! I've actually been using red worms and European nightcrawlers to compost my food scraps in Las Vegas for 3 years now. We hardly have any food garbage at all.

I've been giving them away, trading and selling my worms since I just have so many now. You can see what I have going on at lasvegasworms.com or call me for help or for worms at 6O8-576-9689. :)
John, Las Vegas, NV
Posted: 2/4/2014 6:22:07 PM
Thanks for sharing a wonderful article on vermicomposting, did happen to view an interesting site, http://www.happyworms.ca , wanted to share !
Sam, Toronto, BC
Posted: 12/20/2013 1:01:37 PM
Good to Know
Annie, Houston, TX
Posted: 4/29/2012 7:17:22 AM
Worms are great. They remove all of my kitchen scraps and debris. I send no food waste from the kitchen to the landfill, they get it all.

I puree all the stuff, freeze it in bowls made from the bottom of gallon milk jugs and then feed them one of those worm-sicles every three days. Once it thaws, they swarm the thing and it's gone!

It won't be long before I have enough worms to give away, too.
Bruce, Las Vegas, NV
Posted: 5/19/2011 7:29:19 AM

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