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vegetable-based compost and sphagnum moss bedding

UserPost

6:48 am
May 10, 2012


Rodger S Castleberry

Signal Mountain, Tennessee

Member

posts 6

Being brand new to this site, and a true "newbie" to this adopted vocation, I find myself woefully ignorant of the true facts of vermi-compost. My initial venture has been with non-manure based feedstock, but primarily silage from a neighboring corn and alfalfa farmer, who could become Organic-certified, but lacks the capital and impetus. Working to change that. But, in the meantime, give me the + and – of raising worms (baitworms) and castings for sale in local commerce.

RodgerDodger

1:59 pm
May 10, 2012


Philip Rock

Member

posts 43

Roger – did you see the second post on this forum, down at the bottom?  My answer to you would be the same.  Then look at the top of the page, where it says 'Get the Book' – this is 'The Business and Biology of Raising Worms' (more or less) by Duncan Carver and Bentley Christie.  It's not a perfect book – but it's a fast read and it spells out the "+ and  -" of such a venture and they do it much better than anyone can do in a reply to a web forum!

In short:  1) It's not a get rich quick scheme  2) do the legwork yourself to see if there is a market in your area for worms/vermicompost 3) do they cost/benefit analysis.  4) it could be supplemental income – if your source of material is free, your operating costs kept low, and you have a market for your product(s).

 

Best of luck to you!

4:32 am
May 17, 2012


Rodger S Castleberry

Signal Mountain, Tennessee

Member

posts 6

Philip,

I've already downloaded (and printed) the recommended book, but being the lazy and slothful creature I am, was curious if others had gone down my chosen path (corn silage, CaCo3 and Peat Moss)

Thanks for reminding me to "do the legwork!"

RodgerSmile

7:52 pm
May 18, 2012


Philip Rock

Member

posts 43

Sure thing Rodger – good luck to you.  If you've got a free source of that stuff, I don't see how you can go wrong.  Start small and scale it up if the worms are thriving.  Phil

1:17 am
May 19, 2012


Rodger S Castleberry

Signal Mountain, Tennessee

Member

posts 6

Just ran into a brick wall…..my initial lab report showed a high amount of fecal coliform. I'm puzzled and flabbergasted as the only "manure" in my worm castings comes from the worms themselves.

Though I'm an outdoor operation, my entire setup is on a poured concrete slab, protected from weather by galvanized roofing AND impervious to birds and other critters by small-mesh plastic netting.

Testing of the feedstock revealed zero problems with coliform – or salmonella.Cry

Until I find the source of my "problem," looks like I will be limited to the current restrictions.

HELP!

7:19 pm
May 21, 2012


Philip Rock

Member

posts 43

Hmmm…as a microbiologist I can't help but find your problem interesting, though I'm sorry to hear that you've got a problem.  Fecal coliforms don't come from nowhere.  I'm not knowledgeable with the gut microflora of composting worms; there are likely not that many people who are.  As usual, there are always more questions than answers.  Firstly, I would suggest you have a second, independent analysis.  There are a number of different ways to screen for fecal coliforms.  Some of these screens have a high 'false-positive' rate. The tests are designed this way, as it is always better to err on the side of caution…but there are quite a few relatively harmless (and ubiquitous) bacteria that could masquerade as fecal coliforms.  Initial positive tests need to be confirmed with more specific tests.  If you are really considering this business of yours, it could be worth following up the initial tests…it may turn out that you don't have a real problem after all. 

I'm gone from my lab and my worms for the summer (hoping my new student can keep my small vermicomposting operation going…) but you've given me an idea for some research when I get back. 

Don't give up just yet Rodger!  Please keep the Worm Forum appraised of any new developments with your venture – and Good Luck!

10:18 pm
May 21, 2012


Philip Rock

Member

posts 43

It's me again, Rodger.  I did a little looking around on the Internet to see what is known about "Intestinal microflora of Eisenia fetida"  (gut bacteria of red wigglers).  It turns out that quite a bit is known.  If you like reading scientific publications, here is a free one entitled:  'Diversity of microflora in the gut and casts of tropical composting earthworms reared on different substrates

 

Upon skimming that article (and a couple of others), I'm convinced that it would be perfectly normal to find bacteria that could act enough like 'fecal coliforms' to give a positive result on standard screening tests.  Which makes those follow-up tests I mentioned above mandatory.  Vermicompost is full of bacteria…but so is regular compost as well as soil – so don't let it bother you too much.  Remember what the vermicompost is for:  to enrich soil for plant growth.  You won't be eating the stuff.  There will always be 'potentially' disease-causing bacteria present.  Normally these are only a problem for people who have compromised immune systems.  Use common sense and wash your hands after dealing with worms and vermicompost.

 

Hope this helps!

4:26 am
May 22, 2012


Rodger S Castleberry

Signal Mountain, Tennessee

Member

posts 6

Philip,

This is a most helpful dialogue you are supplying! Have downloaded and printed (and barely scanned) the rather erudite paper you recommended – and I thought I knew about microflora in worms!

I greatly appreciate your encouraging thoughts, epecially now I know your credential!

All the Best,

Rodger

4:27 am
May 22, 2012


Rodger S Castleberry

Signal Mountain, Tennessee

Member

posts 6

Philip Rock said:

Hmmm…as a microbiologist I can't help but find your problem interesting, though I'm sorry to hear that you've got a problem.  Fecal coliforms don't come from nowhere.  I'm not knowledgeable with the gut microflora of composting worms; there are likely not that many people who are.  As usual, there are always more questions than answers.  Firstly, I would suggest you have a second, independent analysis.  There are a number of different ways to screen for fecal coliforms.  Some of these screens have a high 'false-positive' rate. The tests are designed this way, as it is always better to err on the side of caution…but there are quite a few relatively harmless (and ubiquitous) bacteria that could masquerade as fecal coliforms.  Initial positive tests need to be confirmed with more specific tests.  If you are really considering this business of yours, it could be worth following up the initial tests…it may turn out that you don't have a real problem after all. 

I'm gone from my lab and my worms for the summer (hoping my new student can keep my small vermicomposting operation going…) but you've given me an idea for some research when I get back. 

Don't give up just yet Rodger!  Please keep the Worm Forum appraised of any new developments with your venture – and Good Luck!

4:28 am
May 22, 2012


Rodger S Castleberry

Signal Mountain, Tennessee

Member

posts 6

Philip,

Once again, thank you! Yes, indeedy, it is time for another testing lab and or procedure, one mindful of the possibility of a masquerade!

All the Best,

ROdger


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