Volume 21, No.1, Spring 2003

The Worm Turns

At Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, nearly half a million worms are at work farming food scraps from the mess hall. The worm farm had long been a dream of Bill Meinerding, the manager of the base’s recycling program. So far he could not be happier with his squirmy little farmers.

Originally they were employed in Tullahoma, Tenn., but the air base there did not produce enough scraps for these industrious fellows. At Wright- Patterson, nearly 500 pounds a day of spoiled fruit and vegetable trimmings are delivered to the worm farm, which is housed in a dark building where the temperature is maintained at 70 to 80 degrees. The scraps are layered on top, the worms work in the middle, and the castings come out at the bottom. In just three weeks, the worms processed seven tons of scraps. Previously, the base spent $100 a ton to dispose of food scraps that now provide benefits.

The benefits come in the form of castings from the worms, which make excellent lawn fertilizer because of their high nitrogen content. The air base is testing the castings on its golf course and hopes to use them to enrich the soil around the 8,000-acre base. Replacing chemical fertilizers with castings would be a cost-savings and would reduce fertilizer run-off into the streams and groundwater.

If the U.S. military can derive so many benefits from worm farming, there is no telling what other environmentally friendly practices might be adopted.

Environmental News Network

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