It looks like rich, dark compost. It contains five times more nitrogen, seven times more phosphorus and 11 times more potassium than ordinary soil. It’s vermicompost – super soil produced as a result of the digestion process of the humble earthworm.
It’s basic stuff, but the increased crop productivity, and long-term benefits of vermicompost are undeniable. Soil conditioned with this “black gold,” is what keeps many farm and garden operations from going under. It improves soil structure, increases yield and even improves the taste of fruits and vegetables, and makes them last longer in the field. And, it doesn’t require fancy chemicals or industrial packaging. It does it the old fashioned way, with millions of employees. Squirmy, red employees. Red Wigglers, or Eisenia fetida, to be exact.
Vermicompost can be produced in a tiny urban closet, or on a large ranch. In Sonoma County, California, Jack Chambers goes big. He produces 35,000 pounds a month at Sonoma Valley Worm Farm. Chambers bought the 1-acre operation in 1992, and since then, he figures he’s diverted 1.8 million tons of food from entering landfills by recycling agricultural waste, and selling worms to home composters.