I must admit that it was a daunting task trying to come up with a good starting place for our new ‘feature articles’ series. We’ve come a long way, and covered a lot of ground since the very first Worm Farming Secrets newsletter was released, more than a year ago. Guided primarily by reader demand, our newsletter has featured discussions ranging from vermicomposting basics to the business of worm farming – and everything in between.
The advantage of this approach is that we’ve been able to provide something for everyone, and have been able to respond personally to many of the questions that have been burning in the back of our readers’ minds!
Based on the incredible amount of positive feedback we’ve received (all of it greatly appreciated, I might add), it’s safe to say that we’ve been doing something right!
Nevertheless, we felt that it might be time to change things up a little and adopt a somewhat more structured, planned approach. As Duncan has pointed out already, we’ll still have our ever-popular questions & answers (presented in a shorter, more reader-friendly manner), but will now include a ‘feature article’ each week – an article written about a particular topic (or topics) that we feel is aligned with the overall mission of the Worm Farming Secrets newsletter.
Unlike the Q&A section, the feature articles will follow a more logical progression, with each week’s article often building upon the articles of previous weeks.
And what better place to begin, than with an overview (a ‘quick and dirty’ one at that) of the topic of ‘worm farming’ itself?
The term ‘worm farming’ means different things to different people.
For many, it is used interchangeably with similar terms such as vermicomposting and vermiculture. Technically speaking however, vermicomposting is the use of worms to convert ‘waste’ materials into a humus-rich soil amendment (emphasis on production of vermicompost), while vermiculture is quite simply the ‘culture of worms’ – the raising and breeding of earthworms (emphasis on worm production).
For our purposes, worm farming is simply used as a general term that can be thought of as the production and use of earthworms for various purposes.
Not exactly the most illuminating definition, I realize – but at least it covers the bases! 🙂
Considering how long the human race has been involved in various forms of agriculture, the concept of ‘worm farming’ is surprisingly new – most of the interest in the field having developed in the last 40 years or so. Unfortunately, it is also a field that has had its fair share (and then some) of scandal and controversy.
The 1970’s in particular represents a fairly dark period in the history of worm farming.
It was during this decade that the ‘buy-back contract’ concept was first introduced, then quickly and widely abused – all in the name of making a quick buck. Sadly, there were many good, honest people who invested their hard-earned money in turn-key ‘worm businesses’, only to end up losing everything when the bottom fell out of the industry.
Luckily, those dark days of the 70’s also marked the beginning of a brighter future.
Renowned vermicomposting educator, Mary Appelhof, was putting together the earliest version of her hugely popular “Worms Eat My Garbage”, and a few years later had the initiative (and bravery) to organize the first ever vermicomposting conference in 1980 – at a time when for most people the term “vermicomposting” was synonymous with “scam”.
Nevertheless, Mary, and other pioneers of the field, continued to push onward and upward. The next twenty years – especially the 1990’s – would likely be considered by many to be the ‘glory days’ of the worm farming industry.
With the worst days of the buy-back scamming left behind, many new stars emerged – helping to repair of the industry’s credibility, and inspiring many more people to get involved.
Fast forward to the present…
Despite the fact that a number of major industry players have moved on, or sadly, passed on (eg. Mary Appelhoff) during the last eight years, the popularity of the field seems to be on the rise yet again.
The growing importance and reach of the world wide web has certainly helped to spread the word and unite the vermicomposting community. One has to look no further than the 10,000+ Worm Farming Secrets newsletter subscribers to see that there is a keen interest in field of worm farming.
With increased focus on sustainable practices, it seems almost inevitable that the popularity of worm farming will only continue to accelerate from here. We certainly hope so, and in the meantime will continue ‘doing our part’ to spread the word about this exciting field.
Hopefully in the process, we’ll help to inspire many others to do the same!