Briana, Erika and I (Hannah Spencer) are going to start investigating vermicomposting and how it might fit in to Clemson’s composting facilities. The stuff people do with worms is really cool! After some preliminary research, it seems to me that most large-scale commercial vermicomposting ventures focus on manure–worms love manure. But there are also several inspiring examples I have found of people using worms to take care of kitchen scraps, which is more along the lines of what we’d want to do here at Clemson. For instance, a man named Mark Yelken (“The Worm Guy”) of Washington state started a vermicomposting business after realizing that all of the landfill space on his home island had been completely filled up. That meant that every scrap of waste the people of the island produced had to be hauled away and put into somebody else’s landfill. So to combat this inefficient and unsustainable use of resources, Mr. Yelken began distributing buckets to his neighbors. They brought him their food scraps and he mixed it with a little manure donated from local organic horse farms. The result was a beautiful, nutritious, locally sourced, organic fertilizer that became very popular very fast.
I like this example because Mr. Yelken didn’t have any superb facilities at his disposal, or even necessarily much money; he simply saw a problem, and used a little extra land, some worms, and a few plastic buckets to try and solve it. Of course, he had to eventually acquire some machinery, but I was surprised at how small and simple the contraptions were. His process is simple and effective, kept afloat by neighborly participation and a lot of legwork on Mr. Yelken’s part. I think that our project should, like Mr. Yelken, start small and think big, looking to utilize as much as possible the resources already in place to create something new (and wormy) at Clemson.